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The Individual In Entrepreneurial Society

from "Conclusion: The Entrepreneurial Society" in Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker

innovation & entrepreneurship

Amazon link: Innovation and Entrepreneurship




In an entrepreneurial society individuals face a tremendous challenge, a challenge they need to exploit as an opportunity: the need for continuous learning and relearning.

In traditional society it could be assumed—and was assumed—that learning came to an end with adolescence or, at the latest, with adulthood.

What one had not learned by age twenty-one or so, one would never learn.

But also what one had learned by age twenty-one or so one would apply, unchanged, the rest of one’s life.

On these assumptions traditional apprenticeship was based, traditional crafts, traditional professions, but also the traditional systems of education and the schools.

Crafts, professions, systems of education, and schools are still, by and large, based on these assumptions.

There were, of course, always exceptions, some groups that practiced continuous learning and relearning: the great artists and the great scholars, Zen monks, mystics, the Jesuits.

But these exceptions were so few that they could safely be ignored.

In an entrepreneurial society, however, these “exceptions” become the exemplars.

The correct assumption in an entrepreneurial society is that individuals will have to learn new things well after they have become adults—and maybe more than once.

The correct assumption is that what individuals have learned by age twenty-one will begin to become obsolete five to ten years later and will have to be replaced or at least refurbished—by new learning, new skills, new knowledge.

One implication of this is that individuals will increasingly have to take responsibility for their own continuous learning and relearning, for their own self-development and for their own careers.

They can no longer assume that what they have learned as children and youngsters will be the “foundation” for the rest of their lives.

It will be the “launching pad”—the place to take off from rather than the place to build on and to rest on.

They can no longer assume that they “enter upon a career” which then proceeds along a pre-determined, well-mapped and well-lighted “career path” to a known destination—what the American military calls “progressing in grade.”

The assumption from now on has to be that individuals on their own will have to find, determine, and develop a number of “careers” during their working lives.

And the more highly schooled the individuals, the more entrepreneurial their careers and the more demanding their learning challenges.

The carpenter can still assume, perhaps, that the skills he acquired as apprentice and journeyman will serve him forty years later.

Physicians, engineers, metallurgists, chemists, accountants, lawyers, teachers, managers had better assume that the skills, knowledges, and tools they will have to master and apply fifteen years hence are going to be different and new.

Indeed they better assume that fifteen years hence they will be doing new and quite different things, will have new and different goals and, indeed, in many cases, different “careers.”

And only they themselves can take responsibility for the necessary learning and relearning, and for directing themselves.

Tradition, convention, and “corporate policy” will be a hindrance rather than a help.

This also means that an entrepreneurial society challenges habits and assumptions of schooling and learning.

The educational systems the world over are in the main extensions of what Europe developed in the seventeenth-century.

There have been substantial additions and modifications, but the basic architectural plan on which our schools and universities are built goes back three hundred years and more.

Now new, in some cases radically new, thinking and new, in some cases radically new, approaches are required, and on all levels.

Using computers in preschool may turn out to be a passing fad.

But four-year-olds exposed to television expect, demand, and respond to very different pedagogy than four-year-olds did fifty years ago.

Young people headed for a “profession”—that is, four-fifths of today’s college students—do need a “liberal education.”

But that clearly means something quite different from the nineteenth-century version of the seventeenth-century curriculum that passed for a “liberal education” in the English-speaking world or for “Aligemeine Bildung” in Germany.

If this challenge is not faced up to, we risk losing the fundamental concept of a “liberal education” altogether and will descend into the purely vocational, purely specialized, which would endanger the educational foundation of the community and, in the end, community itself.

But also educators will have to accept that schooling is not for the young only and that the greatest challenge—but also the greatest opportunity—for the school is the continuing relearning of already highly schooled adults.

So far we have no educational theory for these tasks.

So far we have no one who does what, in the seventeenth century, the great Czech educational reformer Johann Comenius did or what the Jesuit educators did when they developed what to this day is the “modern” school and the “modern” university.

But in the United States, at least, practice is far ahead of theory.

To me the most positive development in the last twenty years, and the most encouraging one, is the ferment of educational experimentation in the United States—a happy by-product of the absence of a “Ministry of Education”—in respect to the continuing learning and relearning of adults, and especially of highly schooled professionals.

Without a “master plan,” without “educational philosophy,” and, indeed, without much support from the educational establishment, the continuing education and professional development of already highly educated and highly achieving adults has become the true “growth industry” in the United States in the last twenty years.

The emergence of the entrepreneurial society may be a major turning point in history.

A hundred years ago, the worldwide panic of 1873 terminated the Century of Laissez-Faire that had begun with the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in 1776.

In the Panic of 1873 the modern welfare state was born.

A hundred years later it had run its course, almost everyone now knows.

It may survive despite the demographic challenges of an aging population and a shrinking birthrate.

But it will survive only if the entrepreneurial economy succeeds in greatly raising productivities. continue

We may even still make a few minor additions to the welfare edifice, put on a room here or a new benefit there.

But the welfare state is past rather than future—as even the old liberals now know.

Will its successor be the Entrepreneurial Society?




knowledge technology

Knowledge technology

More on the modern chaos


Career and Life Guidance from Peter Drucker
is attention-directing work




“Time Related” Management Books

Important ways to “see” otherwise invisible aspects of reality and to relocate one's brain to unfamiliar territory.

Some of the chapter topics have made their way into The Daily Drucker

The subtopics below selected book titles are not the entire contents that book.

bbx Managing in Turbulent Times

bbx Toward the Next Economics and Other Essays


bbx The Changing World of The Executive

bbx A Scorecard for Management

… “bottom line” is not even an appropriate measure of management performance

bbx Performance in Appropriating Capital

bbx Performance on People Decisions

bbx Innovation Performance

bbx Planning Performance (reality vs. expectations)

bbx Learning From Foreign Management

bbx Demand responsibility from their employees

bbx Thought through their benefits policies more carefully

bbx Take marketing seriously — knowing what is value for the customer

bbx Base their marketing and innovation strategies on the systematic and purposeful abandonment

bbx Longer-term investment or opportunities budgets

bbx Leaders responsible for the development of proper policies in the national interest

bbx Aftermath of a Go-Go Decade

bbx Managing Capital Productivity

bbx Measuring Business Performance

Performance in a business means applying capital productively and there is only one appropriate yardstick of business performance: return on all assets employed or on all capital invested

bbx Good Growth and Bad Growth

bbx Managing the Knowledge Worker

bbx Frontiers of Management

bbx Measuring White Collar Productivity

bbx Getting Control of Staff Work

bbx Slimming Management’s Midriff

bbx The No-Growth Enterprise

bbx Why Automation Pays Off

bbx Managing for the Future

bbx The New Productivity Challenge

bbx Manage by walking around — Outside!

bbx Permanent cost cutting: permanent policy

bbx Four marketing lessons for the future

bbx Company performance: five telltale tests

bbx Market standing

bbx Innovative performance

bbx Productivity

bbx Liquidity and Cash Flows

bbx Profitability

bbx No Precise Readings

bbx The trend toward alliances for progress

bbx The emerging theory of manufacturing

bbx Sell the Mailroom. Unbundling in the ‘90s

bbx Managing in a Time of Great Change

bbx The theory of the business

bbx Planning for uncertainty

bbx The five deadly business sins

bbx Management Challenges for the 21st Century

bbx Managing in the Next Society




“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




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working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then figure out a coping plan for what you’ve rejected.

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