The works of Peter Drucker remain relevant even in today’s world as generations to come will move into an uncertain future. No one knows for certain what will come as we only can envisage the future from our own paradigm, and as new paradigms are created so too will the boundaries of reality, feasibility and possibility.
Drucker wrote the article ‘Managing Oneself’ for the Harvard Business Review at the end of the last century and for many individuals the events of their lives are things that bind them to a fate of inevitability and helplessness. The notion of managing oneself is a rare idea and one that since the time of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks was not possible since they were bound up with events of fate (see the Iliad, Odyssey, Oedipus, Hesiod, Torah, Tanakh, etc.) with an external divine force that would provide ‘grace’ for some and for others their fate to death and suffering would be predetermined and unchangeable.
Drucker examines the idea of managing oneself in relation to the corporate world although the personal mindset of an individual is essential to understand.
This is also the first habit from Dr. Steven Covey’s 7 habits of highly successful people and this is the hallmark of managing oneself successfully. The proactive person needs to understand what is happening in his or her industry and also should actively be looking to keep up with things that could potentially hinder their progress in the future.
“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” – Peter Drucker
The overlooked and unappreciated things today are the goldmines of tomorrow. Oil used to be a filthy substance that polluted lakes and only when that product was able to be refined and used then it became a valuable resource. Also, the things that are valuable today can also become redundant and useless tomorrow. The Apple II computer was revolutionary at the time it launched, and now it is completely unusable in terms of being competitive in the marketplace.
“The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.” – Peter Drucker
In society today it is easy to blame external people, groups and forces for a person’s own failings. People blame the government, the media, invisible forces, immigrants, the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the weak, the strong, the disenfranchised, and so on. A person can blame as many external factors as they choose to, and ultimately the only person to really blame is the person who we look at in the mirror.
Drucker points out that the area to focus on is on our own abilities and it is also important to focus on how improve our strengths and not to compensate for weaknesses. A question that Drucker poses is:
What are my strengths?
Many do not know their strengths and they are seduced by what they are interested in, rather than what they are good at. It is certainly possible to have both and this would require an honest assessment of feedback from your internal thoughts and external results.
The strengths that a person has usually lies between the extremes of a continuum, for example people are usually logical or creative. There are some exceptional people who can operate in both areas equally well, however most other people will typically prefer one type of strength and as mentioned before the results will allow someone to see if their strengths align with their desires.
Other areas that Drucker looks at in relation to understanding strengths are:
Am I a reader or a listener?
Do I work best alone or with other people?
Do I work best in big environments or small ones?
Do I work best under pressure or with structure?
The more honest information that a person can gather the better that their ability to manage themselves will be.
What are my values?
Of all the things that a person will need to know in order to attain self-understanding, values would be at the forefront of the list.
Our values are simply emotional states that we either desire or want to avoid.
These values provide an indirect explanation of behaviour. To understand how an individual or organisation behaves, then the thing to do is to observe their behaviour very closely.
Values are typically arranged in hierarchies. In order to understand values it is important to look at the salient behaviour that one undertakes. A position that one finds oneself in is a clear reflection of his or her values.
Our values control our lives. The interesting thing is that each of us has the ability to control and change our values, and yet they often remain fixed to moments and decisions that were made at an early age or forged from experiences shaped by people that were influential such as parents, peers, guardians, teachers, and so on.
The process of changing values is simple, and yet not easy.
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”
― Peter Drucker
One of the most important things that we will ever need to know is that we should always be evaluating our values, and when appropriate then we should change our values or our behaviour in order to create the kind of life that is a success.
In terms of a career we will always need to update our skills and ability to be productive and useful to the marketplace. New technology will come and new technology will be replaced by other forms of technology.
No one can predict the future perfectly, and yet it is possible to prepare for the future by being the best that we can possibly be.
There is always time to create and work towards a desired future. That does not mean that success is guaranteed. The only thing that is guaranteed in life is death. Everything else is based on statistics and probability.
Challenges for the future
“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different” – Peter Drucker
Drucker examines the challenges for the future and make some important points that should be understood by all.
The test of any piece of work must be what the individual can get from that work either emotionally, psychologically or practically in the real world.
The mindset of a consumer today has changed drastically now even more than they have at any time in history, and as a result the landscape of the business environments will change greatly as we move forward, and even with the amount of experts and algorithms being put in place we still will not know how things play out in the future.
Consumers can now become entrepreneurs within their own right and operate vastly successful enterprises from a mobile phone or tablet. The idea that Drucker proposed of the Knowledge Worker is now a reality. Corporations and institutions that were built on the industrial age paradigms of a top-down relationship between an employer and an employee are not as defined and clear as they once were.
As we progress through time we may see corporations becoming more automated and why the billionaire Silicon Valley investor Marc Andresson’s comment that, ’software will eat the world’ could become a reality where corporations will not only be run by software, but could also be operated controlled and affected by software programs autonomously without human intervention.
We already have retail stores that require no staff operating in China now and Amazon are experimenting with a similar concept. Today we can see cars and planes that operate themselves, we see that the employment opportunities for so called ‘low-skilled’ workers are being replaced daily and the future for many going forward will be bleak if they cannot find a way to fit into the structure of the new societies, or find ways to make a successful living through their own entrepreneurial efforts.
Drucker’s thoughts are ones that should be examined and taken seriously because no one has the answers to how the future will look. At the same time the ability to take responsibility and learn as much as he or she can about their fields of expertise and opportunities in the market.