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Application Exercise:

To test out the strategies you learned in this module, read this passage from the The New Humanities Reader (2002). In this article, "The Age of Social Transformation," Peter Drucker describes what he sees as "the knowledge society." Use the fishbone concept map to determine the main idea and the supporting details of the passage.

Fishbone Concept Map for Application Exercise

How Knowledge Works
That knowledge in the knowledge society has to be highly specialized to be productive implies two new requirements: that knowledge workers work in teams, and that knowledge workers are not employees, they must at least be affiliated with an organization.

There is a great deal of talk these days about "teams" and "teamwork." Most of it starts out with the wrong assumption--namely, that we have never before worked in teams. Actually, people have always worked in teams; very few people ever could work effectively by themselves. The farmer had to have a wife, and the farm wife had to have a husband. The two worked as a team. And both worked as a team with their employees, the hired hands. The craftsman also had to have a wife, with whom he worked as a team--he took care of the craft work, and she took care of the customers, the apprentices, and the business altogether. And both worked as a team with the journeymen and apprentices. Much discussion assumes that there is only one kind of team. Actually there are quite a few. But until now the emphasis has been on the individual worker and not on the team. With knowledge work growing increasingly effective as it is increasingly specialized, teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself.

The team that is being touted now--I call it the "jazz combo" team--is only one kind of team. It is actually the most difficult kind of team both to assemble and to make work effectively, and the kind that requires the longest time to gain performance capacity. We will have to learn to use different kinds of teams for different purposes. We will have to learn to understand teams--and this is something to which, so far, very little attention has been paid. The understanding of teams will thus become central concerns in the management of people.

Equally important is the second implication of the fact that knowledge workers are of necessity specialists: the need for them to work as members of an organization. Only the organization can provide the basic continuity that knowledge workers need in order to be effective. Only the organization can convert the specialized knowledge of the knowledge worker into performance.

By itself, specialized knowledge does not yield performance. The surgeon is not effective unless there is a diagnosis--which, by and large, is not the surgeon's task and not even within the surgeon's competence. As a loner in his or her research and writing, the historian can be very effective. But to educate students, a great many other specialists have to contribute--people whose specialty may be literature or mathematics, or other areas of history. And this requires that the specialist have access to an organization.

The access may be as a consultant, or it may be as a provider of specialized services. But for the majority of knowledge workers it will be as employees, full-time or part-time, of an organization, such as a government agency, a hospital, a university, a business, or a labor union. In the knowledge society it is not the individual who performs. The individual is a cost center rather than a performance center. It is the organization that performs.

Drucker, P. (1994). The age of social transformation. In R. Miller & K. Spellmeyer (Eds.), The new humanities reader. (pp. 221-248). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.