By Daniel H Pink, Wired Magazine Feb. 2005
When I was a kid – growing up in a middle-class family, in the middle of America, in the middle of the 1970s – parents dished out a familiar plate of advice to their children: Get good grades, go to college, and pursue a profession that offers a decent standard of living and perhaps a dollop of prestige. If you were good at math and science, become a doctor. If you were better at English and history, become a lawyer. If blood grossed you out and your verbal skills needed work, become an accountant. Later, as computers appeared on desktops and CEOs on magazine covers, the youngsters who were really good at math and science chose high tech, while others flocked to business school, thinking that success was spelled MBA.
Tax attorneys. Radiologists. Financial analysts. Software engineers. Management guru Peter Drucker gave this cadre of professionals an enduring, if somewhat wonky, name: knowledge workers. These are, he wrote, “people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in school rather than for their physical strength or manual skill.” What distinguished members of this group and enabled them to reap society’s greatest rewards, was their “ability to acquire and to apply theoretical and analytic knowledge.” And any of us could join their ranks. All we had to do was study hard and play by the rules of the meritocratic regime. That was the path to professional success and personal fulfillment.
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