For sixty years Drucker has taken on a new subject every three or four years and read up on it to the capacious limits of his curiosity. One year it might be Japanese art, which he taught on the side for six years at Pomona College; another year it could be sixteenth-century finance; yet another the history of technology or of work -- or of American statesmen or of British rule in India. He recommends intellectual omnivorousness as a form of self-renewal. Certainly it has worked for him. A recent issue of Forbes, with Drucker's picture on the cover, bore the nearly plausible title "Still the YOUNGEST MIND." Drucker's reading also pays off on the page. Few other "management gurus" can garnish a paragraph with bits like this: "It is no accident that the word 'risk' itself in the original Arabic meant 'earning one's daily bread.'" (Had you forgotten that?) "Only in Drucker," The Economist notes, "would you learn that the first management conference was organized in 1882, by the German Post Office -- and that nobody showed up." Even more characteristic is Drucker's use of historical analogies, often felicitous. Thus in discussing ways to deter polluters of the "Transnational Ecology," he notes that, "The nineteenth century cured two of mankind's oldest scourges, the slave trade and piracy on the high seas, by transnational action." As the 19th century did with piracy, so the twenty-first can do with pollution. Drucker's books teach; above everything, he is a teacher.

Jack Beatty,
from The World According to Peter Drucker
(The Free Press, 1998)

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Copyright © 1998 by Jack Beatty. Published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.