I just finished teaching part of a course called "From innovation to operations", where I talk to engineering students about the tensions that can exist between operational excellence on one hand and innovation and/or flexibility on the other. It's all very short, with only four actual teaching sessions (and very enjoyable because the students are … Continue reading Teaching foundations
One of the most ingrained ideas in the field of management and organization is that bureaucratic organizations struggle to innovate. Organizations tend to drift towards bureaucratization over time because it is (arguably) the most efficient way to get routinized work done, but a whole range of defining features of bureaucracies (focus on standardization, dependence on hierarchy, … Continue reading Bureaucracy and innovation
Update: The published version of the paper is available here until January 16, 2018. _ _ _ _ There's a lot of talk about makerspaces these days, and deservedly so. Makerspaces tend to include a lot of the prototyping technologies that people are excited about (especially 3D printers) and Makerspaces are getting set up in … Continue reading Makerspaces and innovation
Russ Roberts recently podcasted an interview with Elizabeth Pape of clothing company Elizabeth Suzann over on EconTalk*. At one point (somewhere around 20 minutes into the conversation), Russ says: This is such a 2017-, 21st-century story. And especially, given your price point and your production model, it's really quite extraordinary that you seem to be … Continue reading New business like it’s 2017
To understand one of the interesting questions of the interesting time we live in, James Bessen has done us a great service of applied historical analysis by delving into the historical connection between technological change and employment and wages to shed light on how the technological changes that we're currently seeing might impact employment and wages in the long(er) run.
So we've covered the (anxiety-prompting) prospects for job destruction by technology and the (anxiety-dampening) history of job creation. Now, we'll turn to the role of context and firm-level strategies in deciding the actual effects of technology's potentials.
David Autor in his imminently readable piece points out that labor-saving substitution and technological job destruction has been going on since at least the Industrial Revolution. And yet we still have jobs. Why?
There are (at least) two ways to think about how the adoption of machines influences employment. The classic way is to think that machines substitute for labor, that machines replace human workers in order to increase productivity. The other way is to think that machines make human workers more efficient and therefore enhance the value of human work, leading to increased demand for human labor. Machines, in this view, complement labor.
If the vision of the future that Brynjolfsson & McAfee paint in their book is right, what lies ahead is technologically exhilerating. And socially troubling.
Sometimes, it's healthy to read something that substantially disturbs your prior beliefs. Reading "The Rise and Fall of American Growth" certainly disturbed me and disturbed me so much that it actually prompted me to write about it.