The quotes your are seeking can be found in Drucker's famous Harvard
University lecture on The Knowledge Society that he gave in 1994:
Knowledge Work and Knowledge Society
The Social Transformations of this Century
Peter F. Drucker
May 4, 1994
The quotes are not pithy. Rather, Drucker discusses -- over the space
of a few paragraphs -- the tendency of the modern knowledge worker
towards decentralization and non-hierarchical structures:
[decentralization and worker portability...how knowledge workers are
much less tied to a particular physical location than workers of the
...Equally important, perhaps more important: in the knowledge society
the employees, that is knowledge workers, again own the tools of
production. Marx's great insight was the realization that the factory
worker does not and cannot own the tools of production and therefore
has to be alienated. There was no way, Marx pointed out, for the
worker to own the steam engine and to be able to take the steam engine
with himself when moving from one job to another...
...The market researcher needs a computer. But increasingly this is
the researcher's own personal computer, and a cheap tool the market
researcher takes along wherever he or she goes. And the true capital
equipment of market research is the knowledge of markets, of
statistics, and of the application of market research to business
strategy, which is lodged between the researchers ears and is their
exclusive and inalienable property...
[non-hierarchical...how knowledge is context-specific, and knowledge
workers all on fairly equal footing]
...Because its work is based on knowledge, the knowledge organization
is altogether not one of superiors and subordinates.
...The prototype is the symphony orchestra. The first violin may be
the most important in the orchestra. But the first violinist is not
the superior of the harp player. He is a colleague. The harp part is
the harp player s part and not delegated to her by either the
conductor or the first violinist.
...There was endless debate in the Middle Ages about the hierarchy of
knowledges, with philosophy claiming to be the queen of knowledges. We
long ago gave up that moot argument. There is no higher knowledge and
no lower knowledge. When the patient s complaint is an ingrown toenail
the podiatrist s knowledge controls, and not that of the brain surgeon
even though the brain surgeon represents many more years of training
and gets a much larger fee...
..What is knowledge, in other words, in one situation, e.g., the
knowledge of Korean for the American executive posted to Seoul, is
only information, and not very relevant information at that, when the
same executive a few years later has to think through his company's
market strategy for Korea. This, too, is new. Knowledges were always
seen as fixed stars, so to speak, each occupying its own position in
the universe of knowledge. In the knowledge society, knowledges are
tools and, as such, dependent for their importance and position on the
task to be performed...
Some of these same themes are repeated in other of Drucker's works,
such as this quote on hierarchy:
Management Challenges for the 21st Century
Peter F. Drucker
...Even if employed full-time by the organization, fewer and fewer
people are "subordinates"--even in fairly low-level jobs.
Increasingly, they are "knowledge workers". And knowledge workers are
not subordinates; they are "associates".
I trust this information fully answers your question.
However, if you had a different sort of quote in mind, please let me know.
If you would like any additional information, just post a Request for
Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further, and I'm at
All the best,
search strategy -- Searched Google and several ebook databases for [
drucker "knowledge workers" ]
Clarification of Answer by
23 Jun 2006 13:54 PDT
I can't claim full knowledge of Drucker's works, but from what I do
know, I'm not sure he ever said something that exactly hits the nail
on the head, in terms of your need for a pithy quote.
The closest I've come is this:
The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's
Essential Writings on Management
by Peter F. Drucker
...an increasing number of people who are full-time employees have to
be managed as if they were volunteers. They are paid, to be sure.
But knowledge workers have mobility. They can leave. They own their
"means of production," which is their knowledge.
...Increasingly, [knowledge] "employees" have to be managed as
partners -- and it is the definition of a partnership that all
partners are equal.
It's more from the managers point of view, than from that of the
knowledge worker. But the message is similar -- give 'em room and
responsibility in a non-hierarchical setting, or they'll soon be
If that doesn't meet your needs, let me know, and I'll see if I can
come up with anything else.