Innovation and Divergence – A Division of Labor REMIX

The balance point between convergent/divergent processes marks the opportunity for innovative thinking.

Second Model of Agility and Divergence

Smith, however, highlights another important element within the division of labor: dexterity (aptitude, from within or without the process). In referring to dexterity, Smith attributes a creative aspect, which by nature is a divergent impulse. Although a company may be driven by a convergent and collective process (strategy, protocols, job functions, etc.), the individuals who make up a workforce are rather distributive in nature (distribution, in this case, defined as “branching” out; termination of a ramifying structure).

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Dexterity is both divergent and distributive, as it opens up the potential for invention/innovation within a given task, not only from the creative powers of a task-dedicated “specialist,” but also from the ingenuity of an industry outsider who can combine “the powers of the most distant or dissimilar objects.” (His example of the machine maker who develops a new technology for semi-related industry, or the boy who inadvertently develops a steam engine component differs from the example of the philosopher/speculator shedding light to an industry from an outside perspective). The act of re-interpreting and reinventing a process, making innovative leaps in technology creation, or combining “distant or dissimilar objects” from an outsider’s perspective—these actions exhibit a branching out (distribution) beyond organizational efficiency and convergence, and toward a more agile and experimental enterprise.

The first model (efficiency and convergence) presents an image wherein two people (1+1) operating the same task make up a quantitative set (one = one), whereas in the second model, we have a qualitative set where one may be greater than one, or two, or three or more at different points in time relative to the task at hand and the worker’s skill sets. The first model finds its gravitational pull toward the collective territories of “company,” whereas the second model finds its dispersive push toward the distributive pathways of human action.

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