We have many text books on the subject of industrial finance, of
engineering, of invention, of industrial management, and all these
books are written on the assumption that the human being knows his
own kind. A study of our failures seems to reveal, however, that
we have misunderstood the human being.
For instance, while we know that skill and experience is
invaluable, we make our mistake by underrating its value, or too
often we limit its application to the hand worker. We say that
skill of the pianist, the surgeon, the workman must be acquired by
practice. We know that in many trades a workman must spend three,
four or more years as an apprentice, and at least the same number
of years is necessary of actual specialized practice in almost any
department of work, but we overlook the fact that that special
skill or that special ability on which modern success is based
must be acquired under certain conditions.
The oriole builds a nest unlike the robin's nest. Each is
qualified in its own work. We know that these birds would be
sorely handicapped, and would probably be downright failures in
providing nests in season for eggs, if each were required to work
to plans and specifications of the other bird's nest.
Our fundamental error in understanding our own kind seems to lie
in the fact that we fail to recognize that man is a creature of
habit to an extent not quite equal to that of the lower animals,
but nevertheless to a degree that positively stands in the way of
any man who tries to create or manage an industry without giving
due value to this one element.
Another way to say all this is that we must recognize experience
is necessary--experience not only for the worker but for each one
in the organization.
The effect of this characteristic of habit action is so profound
that any disturbance in a plant due to changing the position of
benches or machinery or changing the character of the work
sorely interferes with man's efficiency. On account of this
characteristic the degree to which man's energies are most
effectively employed goes in direct proportion to the degree in
which there is a minimum of changes in the character of the work.
The importance of this will be realized when we consider the
question of competition, for that, in the last analysis,
constitutes the measure of success.
Now, if we extend the plan of acquisition of special ability to
embrace men in office as well as in the workshop we have covered
the whole subject and have said nothing more than that it is
necessary for all men in the office as well as in the workshop to
have a special ability that has been acquired by experience.
If it is as simple as this, why the need of saying it? The need is
brought about by the painful fact that one of the characteristics
of habit action is to continue on without change even after the
mind has apparently recognized that a change should be made.
Success comes not from the mere _word_ knowledge of these
things, but through action.