A future way of working in the Networked Society
One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that I have a variety of different roles. I’m constantly learning new ways of approaching and fulfilling my responsibilities. I also get to interact with a wide range of people. In this sense, I am a generalist. But in the future, this way of working is likely to change.
What we are seeing today as we move toward the Networked Society is the emergence of a hyperspecialized workforce – a workforce that’s broken down into specialists who can be sought from all over the world to work in parallel, each performing a single task.
This growing trend was explored in an article that appeared last July in the Harvard Business Review, called The Big Idea: The Age of Hyperspecialization. In the article, Thomas W. Malone, Robert J. Laubacher and Tammy Johns write that cheaper, faster, improved communication is driving hyperspecialization, and that the trend is providing greater flexibility both for the employee and the employer.
This is similar to what happened in the Industrial Revolution, when manufacturing lines separated the work done by a single person into several specialized tasks so that productivity could increase. Today, as the files and programs we used to have on our hard drives at work and at home move up to the cloud and become networked, it has once again become possible to separate different tasks. We are now working together in a new virtual way, sharing and producing our work with specialized people.
These ways of working are going to change the way we lead, manage and work, and this evolution begs the question: what parts of your job could be broken down and completed by a specialist who could perform the task better than you can? And how would you feel about that?