11.15.2005

Tribute to a thinker

As a nascent business writer who reads a lot of books and articles on management practices, I have been bombarded over the past year with references to Peter Drucker. The author and, well, he's often called a guru, but thinker seems to apply best, passed away over the weekend, so there are numerous tributes and links to his work.

One that struck me the most is this interview in the third issue of Wired from 1993. Drucker has long been credited with coining the term "knowledge worker," and it's clear that he foresaw things that we now take for granted about the transition of our economy over the past several decades. But reading the interview, I couldn't help but feel like the recent spate of "creative economy" talk is just a new wineskin of sorts. How about this from Drucker in response to a question from Peter Schwartz about relative competition between the U.S. and Japan:

"The traditional factors of production -- land, labor, and capital -- are becoming restraints rather than driving forces. Knowledge is becoming the one critical factor of production."

That, in a nutshell, is Richard Florida's first big book.

Later, in the same answer in which he talks about how Japan, the U.S. and Germany approached the need for innovation as opposed to production, he offers this:

"Knowledge has become the central, key resource that knows no geography."

That's Florida's most recent book, and, to an extent, Thomas Friedman's. Now both clearly have dressed these thoughts up in new data and reporting that make them contemporary and relevant, and neither has claimed to invent the wheel here. But it's amazing that so much of what passes for cutting edge thought was being tossed off in an interview with Drucker a dozen years ago and in his books and other writings even earlier. Though I came late to the party, I'm going to take advantage of the deluge of information about Drucker and his work to immerse myself in it. He was clearly a visionary.

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