The Big Idea: The Age of Hyperspecialization

Thomas W. Malone, Robert J. Laubacher, and Tammy Johns, Harvard Business Review: As labor becomes more knowledge based and communications technology advances, the division of labor accelerates. The hyperspecialization of workers may be inevitable given the quality, speed, and cost advantages it offers employers – and the power it gives individuals to devote flexible hours to tasks of their choice. This will force managers to master a new set of skills: dividing work into assignable micro tasks; attracting specialized workers to perform them; ensuring acceptable quality; and integrating many pieces into whole solutions. Firms will learn to rely on a new breed of intermediaries – from small assignment brokers like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to complex problem posers like InnoCentive. Hyperspecialization also creates new social challenges, such as the possibility of exploitation as work quickly finds the cheapest takers, and the opportunity for deception when workers can’t see the larger purposes to which they are contributing. New global standards or regulations may be required, while guildlike organizations may address workers%u2019 needs for continuing skill development and a sense of community.

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Publisher: Harvard Business Review

Date added: 08/07/2011


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