The big idea, the Age of Hyperspecialization

By Tammy Johns, published by Harvard Business Review in september 2011

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, famously described what would be one of the central drivers of economic progress for centuries to come: the division of labor.

Much of the prosperity our world now enjoys comes from the productivity gains of dividing work into ever smaller tasks performed by ever more specialized workers. Today, thanks to the rise of knowledge work and communications technology, this subdivision of labor has advanced to a point where the next difference in degree will constitute a difference in kind. We are entering an era of hyperspecialization—a very different, and not yet widely understood, world of work.

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