How is our world of work changing? I find it so cool that at Harvard Business Publishing we can leverage facilitators with specialized finance skills, virtual event managers, and Harvard Business School professors—all on different work arrangements—into one globally delivered learning session. But the jobs of the future will also require a new lens on learning and development. Enter ing the Era of Hyperspecialization.
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Below are the available bulk discount rates for each individual item when you purchase a certain amount. Publication Date: July 01, Since , when Adam Smith described how the division of labor could spur economic progress, work has increasingly been broken into ever smaller tasks performed by ever more specialized workers.
Now, however, as knowledge work expands and technology advances, we've entered a new era of hyperspecialization: Work previously done by one person is divided into more-specialized pieces done by multiple people, achieving improvements in quality, speed, and cost.
For example, the start-up software firm TopCoder chops its clients' IT projects into bite-size chunks and offers them to its worldwide community of developers in the form of competitive challenges. The developers aspire to be ranked among the company's top coders, virtually guaranteeing quality in the winning end products.
A company called CastingWords produces transcripts of audio files by farming out segments to remote workers for simultaneous transcription: Many hands make extremely fast work. The nonprofit Samasource sends data-entry work to marginalized individuals in the developing world, where tiny jobs lasting just minutes and paying just pennies give workers an economic boost while creating substantial savings for clients.
Managers who want to capitalize on hyperspecialization's possibilities need to learn how best to divide knowledge work into discrete tasks, recruit specialized workers, ensure the quality of the work, and integrate the pieces into a final whole. Meanwhile, companies and governments must be aware of the potential perils of this new age: "digital sweatshops" and other forms of worker exploitation; nefarious schemes hidden behind task atomization; work that becomes dull and meaningless; increased electronic surveillance of workers.
All these, the authors believe, could be ameliorated by global rules and practices and a new form of "guilds" to provide workers with a sense of community and support for professional development. If you'd like to share this PDF, you can purchase copyright permissions by increasing the quantity. The Age of Hyperspecialization by Thomas W. Quantity price applied. Add Copyright Permission. Copyright Permission Qty:. Current Stock:. Buying for your team? See quantity pricing. This is a copyrighted PDF.
Add copies before sharing with your team. Product : RC. Pages: Related Topics: Outsourcing , Process improvement , Knowledge workers , Productivity , International business , Job outsourcing , Constant returns on specialization ,. Newsletter Promo Summaries and excerpts of the latest books, special offers, and more from Harvard Business Review Press.
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Can the “College Premium” Withstand Hyperspecialization?
Using a global Resource Strategy is simply employing tactics to find talent from all over the globe. If I work in the tech industry, for instance, I need people with deep, deep knowledge on very new technology. I need to find a way to keep these people on billable work as long as possible, ideally 35 hours a week or more, for a fairly specialized task. It's not always easy to find consistent work for a resource that has specialized skills.
The Big Idea: The Age of Hyperspecialization
College graduates have long earned more than workers with only a high school diploma. Economists call this differential the college premium. During a summer of mostly bad economic […]. But after learning of this study, I felt nagging concern about what the future might hold.
The Age of Hyperspecialization
The work of the future will be atomized, with many workers doing pieces of what is todaya single job. Since , when Adam Smith described how the division of labor could spur economic progress, work has increasingly been broken into ever smaller tasks performed by ever more specialized workers. A company called CastingWords produces transcripts of audio files by farming out segments to remote workers for simultaneous transcription: Many hands make extremely fast work. The nonprofit organization Samasource sends data-entry work to marginalized individuals in the developing world, where tiny jobs lasting just minutes and paying just pennies give workers an economic boost while creating substantial savings for clients. 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.