Eclectic Curiosity

Dissecting the Division of Labour


Posted on May 1st, 2008, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Miscellany. No Comments

Check this out… New research [appearing in the Journal of Theoretical Biology] by scientists at Ohio State University suggests that societal duties do not need to be assigned by a division of labour (DoL) where every individual has a specific role. Researchers Anthony D’Orazio and Tom Waite argue that generalists have a definite role to play and that this holds true for environments as varied as a single cell, an ocean colony of sea anemones or even a small cookie business.

“What this modelling showed me is that there are conditions under which it actually helps to have some generalists, especially for fairly small groups, some individuals that you might think of as Jacks- or Jills-of-all-trades or multitaskers,” said Waite. “You might actually have to pay them more and they might often do the wrong task, but if you don’t have them, this whole notion of specialisation leading to greater economic productivity might actually be wrong.”

These results go against some long held beliefs, even going back to Greek philosopher Plato, who argued that societies require specialisation to be productive and efficient.





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