Beyond the Information Revolution – 99.10 ::: In October, 1999 Peter Drucker wrote an article for The Atlantic that put the “information revolution” into historical context. His last paragraph is a prediction for where he expects the modern corporation to be within 10 years:
…[P]robably within ten years or so, running a business with (short-term) “shareholder value” as its first — if not its only — goal and justification will have become counterproductive. Increasingly, performance in these new knowledge-based industries will come to depend on running the institution so as to attract, hold and motivate knowledge workers. [emphasis added]
Drucker, who’s been providing these predictions since the mid-1940s, sets the stage properly, but misses a final element. I’m most interested in professional services firms – where the concept of a knowledge worker is quite old. Yet the compensation model – not to mention the organizational structure – is firmly tied to a system that doesn’t encourage the sharing of this knowledge. The technology to promote such sharing exists today (CRM, portals, etc.), yet too few firms have “leaders” who are capable of evangelizing the benefits of sharing their knowledge. Where Drucker fails to close the loop (and who knows, he may have done it since this 10/99 piece) is to point out that the modern organization must not only “attract, hold and motivate” knowledge workers – it must also provide an infrastructure for them that will enable and reward the active dissemination of that knowledge.