What Peter Drucker Would Be Reading

Peter Drucker

Recent selections from around the web that, we think, would have caught Peter Drucker’s eye:

1.  The Cyprus precedent: Commentators all over the world have weighed in on the EU’s proposed terms of the bank bailout in Cyprus, and the verdict is nearly unanimous: Are they nuts? Among the ocean of appalled pundits is Felix Salmon at Reuters: “What we’re seeing here is the Cypriot government being forced to break one of its most important promises—the promise that if you put your money in the bank, and your deposits total less than €100,000, then they will be safe. What’s more, there’s no good reason for insured deposits to be hit in this manner: the same amount of money could be raised just by taxing the uninsured deposits at a slightly higher rate.”     

2.  The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio: Take six parts praise and one part criticism and, boom, you’re golden. Over at the HBR BlogJack Zenger and Joseph Folkman examine the place of pats vs. dings in the office and find that we do need some medicine, but preferably it’s complemented by a lot of sugar. They note a study by academic Emily Heaphy and consultant Marcial Losada that revealed that following about teams in an office setting: “The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one).” Nice work, everyone!  Good job. Excellent research. Very thorough. You’re great. Keep it up. But your writing is a little dry. (See, we’ve already got the rule down.) 

3.  A Smaller Slice of the Pie: Why Technology Is No Longer Creating Jobs: We keep hoping that our advances in technology and knowledge work will create a society as prosperous and upwardly mobile as that of the 1950s and ’60s. But it’s not quite working out that way. An article in Knowledge@Wharton highlights a panel discussion of the problem and cites some reasons for the dashed hopes. For one thing, technology companies can run quite lean. For another, “the products they make, notably computerized automation equipment, often lead to further job losses in other parts of the economy.”      

4.  Dx Comment of the Week: Last Friday, we looked at the ways in which computers and technology have changed the rhythms of our lives and asked whether we could control our machines rather than having them control us. Reader Jed Harris objected to the premise and had the following to say:

In fact computers, plus digital communications (email, texting, twitter, etc.) give us the option of much less tightly managed lives—we can reply to others when and where we wish, and arrange to meet (or not) on the spur of the moment rather than scheduling far in advance. We are not tethered to offices or desks.
More generally, what does it mean that “technology can turn from servant into master”? Did the machines that moved the assembly line set the rules? I don’t think so. The masters in that situation were the masters before and after—the managers who ran the enterprise. . . .
To understand the implications of technical change we need to understand the ways it interacts with social power, human desires, perceived benefits and costs, and so forth. Writing as though the technology was the agent itself is closing our eyes to the real issues.