The Future of Work 2.0

Tom Malone, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of the HBR article The Age of Hyperspecialization, explains why breaking jobs into tiny pieces yields better, faster, cheaper work — and greater flexibility for employees.

Idea in Brief

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
  • 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 the 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’ needs for continuing skills development and a sense of community.

 

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