Thinkers and Doers

“Learning is not an activity of one specific learning organ—the mind or the intellect. It is a process in which the whole person is engaged: the hand, the eye, the nervous system, the brain.”

–Peter F. Drucker, “What We Already Know about American Education Tomorrow,” 1971 lecture

High school and college students are now making their way back to campus in the hopes of preparing themselves to someday take their rightful place in the workforce. But how well are we preparing them? Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, asserted this month that about one-third of the nation’s joblessness is the result of a mismatch between the skills needed and the workers available.

For Peter Drucker, one key to educating people successfully was to make sure that they learned how to both think and do. More and more, he wrote in his 1993 book Post-Capitalist Society, we are going to “have to be prepared to live and work simultaneously in two cultures—that of ‘the intellectual,’ who focuses on words and ideas, and that of the ‘manager,’ who focuses on people and work.

“The intellectual’s world, unless counterbalanced by the manager, becomes one in which everybody ‘does his own thing’ but nobody achieves anything. The manager’s world, unless counterbalanced by the intellectual, becomes the stultifying bureaucracy of the ‘Organization Man.’ But if the two balance each other, there can be creativity and order, fulfillment and mission.”

In this edition of Drucker Apps, we invite you to join our conversation about how well we’re preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. Weighing in will be Edward Gordon, author of Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline; Kimberly McWaters, CEO of Universal Technical Institute (UTI); Anthony P. Carnevale the Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; and others with insights into this subject.

We open things up with this question: Does the current education system give students the right tools to be both thinkers and doers—and, if not, what’s the solution?