It was at the end of the sixties that Drucker shifted his focus from managing a business to the world outside the organization. The Age of Discontinuity was the first of a series of books on the changing shape of society and its impact on the manager of the future. That book was published in 1969 but it reads as if it was written yesterday. The shifts that Drucker glimpsed then are still reverberating today.
The first of these shifts in society was the arrival of the knowledge industries. The problem here, said Drucker, was that knowledge work needed new types of workers, people who liked new challenges, not routines. Finding them and keeping them motivated would be management's new problem. Think of graphic designers, web developers or consultants. "Knowledge workers", Drucker said "cannot be satisfied with work that is only a livelihood."
The second shift would be a move to a global economy. A global shopping centre would mean that everyone would want access to the same goods. It would, he forecast, become an age of conspicuous luxury. The global shopping centre makes brands all important. When the world is your customer you cannot afford to think locally any more. What Drucker foresaw thirty years ago is now all around us. Just think of the Internet.
Drucker's third discontinuity is a growing disenchantment with government. This worried Drucker. Never, he wrote, has strong government been more necessary in this dangerous age. Not that government should do everything. Government, he said, should legislate, regulate and provide the funds, but leave the doing to others. He called it reprivatization. It was a theme that governments everywhere picked up ten to twenty years later. It hasn't always worked that well because businesses are not accountable to the public in the same way that governments are. Privatization can mean more economic freedom for the organization but less for the individual.
In the nineteen eighties Drucker began to despair of his first love, the big corporations. He found them stuck in the past, selfcentred and over-fond of paying themselves huge salaries. He turned his attention instead to the entrepreneurs of the new industries. His book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship was published in 1985. In times of stability, he remarked, organizations need to do things better. In changing times, however, we need to do things differently. It is a jaunty book, with chapter titles like "Hit Them Where They Ain't". "But aren't new ideas risky?" he asks, "Of course innovation is risky" he answers "All economic activity is by definition high risk. And defending yesterday – in other words, not innovating – is far more risky than making tomorrow."