Assuming that Schumpeter was correct and that the rules of the game are continuously changing, a high priority for executives should be identifying those changes that will impact their businesses. Once these changes have been identified, executives and senior managers can better judge how and when to make the adjustments needed to capitalize upon them. The key challenge, of course, is determining what these future changes are likely to be and how to take advantage of them before your competitors do.
Peter Drucker devoted much thought to the analysis of corporate management. More than 50 years ago, in his 1957 book Landmarks of Tomorrow, he outlined the key challenges he saw for future managers and executives [Drucker 1957]. He concluded that learning how to manage knowledge work would be the key management challenge of the next century. He described knowledge work as work that is done in the workers' heads instead of with their hands. He concluded that knowledge work would soon be the most critical and the highest-valued form of labor. Later, in his book The Age of Discontinuity [Drucker 1969], Drucker wrote:
- To make knowledge work productive will be the greatest management task of this century, just as to make manual labor productive was the great management task of the last century.
More recently, in an article in the Harvard Business Review [Drucker 1997], he also said:
- The productivity of knowledge workers will not be the only competitive factor in the world economy. It is, however, likely to become the decisive factor, at least for most industries in developed countries.
Drucker was the premier management thinker of the twentieth century, and it behooves us to take his views seriously. This book, in fact, does just that. It starts from the premise that knowledge work is the work of the future, and that the organizations that first recognize and capitalize on this fact will be the industrial leaders of tomorrow. Ask yourself this question: "If Drucker and Schumpeter were right, what should I do to capitalize on the opportunities of the knowledge-working age?"
This book answers that question.