Of the many elements on which industrial development depends, the
question of specialization looms large.
Under the general term "specialization" we include all plans and
methods of work by which the scope of activity of man is
The highest degree of skill of artist or worker is attained by
concentration of energies to a restricted range of work. It is
through practice that the skill is acquired. The highest skill and
highest ability is attained by the degree of interested attention
and number of repetitions of a given kind of work.
Other things being equal, the practice, combined with keenness of
interest, makes the most successful man in a given profession or
Repetition of operation becomes an automatic (habit) action in
which man accomplishes the most work for a given expenditure of
These two results--proficiency and easy performance--are of
greatest value, but repetition of action, like nearly all good
things, is not without its drawbacks. An overdose of one kind of
work with a limited range of action frequently leads to dulling
the senses. This stultifying effect produces a most undesirable
result. The harm begins when there is a loss of interest in the
work, for it is through the interest that the progress is made.
The dividing line between the good and bad results varies with
different types of men.
The simplest tasks may become of intense interest to the scientist
and he may achieve great success in a work that to others seems
monotonous drudgery. But with all its drawbacks it still is the
best way for man to work and while we must labor to eliminate the
condition of drudgery, we must face the plain fact that
competition between men, industries, states and nations makes it
absolutely necessary to specialize.
Specialization by the men and groups of men will determine the
question of superiority of advance in science, industry, commerce,
general wealth and welfare, as well as military strength in the
time of war.
While we have clearly before us the degrading effects of
repetition of distasteful tasks; we must not ignore the other
The opposite condition is the employment of energies of mind and
body in ways that cannot produce high degree of ability. With such
desultory use of energies, a day's work is of relatively small
value, and there is no progress.
Of the two extremes we find the most prevalent to be the
scatter-brain and scatter ability type.
The industries of the higher type lead in providing the best
implements and in organization of best team work by which each
worker produces the greatest value for a given expenditure of
The essential bearing Of these facts is that the worker as well as
the business man should compare his work with the work of others
with whom he is in competition.
In these days of long distance transportation our competitors in
the market may be a long distance away.
If it is in agriculture, the question of climate, soil and degree
to which highly efficient implements can be used, are important
If it is in the professions we must see how we can acquire the
greatest proficiency and opportunity. This again involves the
question of the extent to which we must specialize.
The measure then of success is the value of our services as
compared with the services of others.
One of the important problems in industrial management is the
extent to which specialization should be practiced.
On one hand we see the ill effects of a routine repetition where
there has been an overdose of repetition--one that has gone beyond
the beneficial point--and on the other hand, we find that the
greatest achievements in the sciences and professions have been
wrought by those who have concentrated in a way that has given
them a higher development. Unfortunately in many of the
industries, the development of machinery has gone forward with the
sole end in view of dollars and cents, disregarding the effect on
This is to be found in some of the industries in which originally
there was an opportunity for the worker to have a keen interest in
his work. Mention is made of this situation as it comes about with
certain stages of development of the manufacturing processes. It
is unfortunate and something that the engineers and managers
should endeavor to eliminate.
We have very few of such industries in Vermont; they can broadly
be classed as undesirable industries. The fact that there are such
industries should not in itself drive us from the scheme of
working by which men specialize. We should, however, see to it
that the degree of repetition of operation goes only to the
beneficial extent. Our greatest trouble in Vermont has been the
wasteful scattering of each man's energies over a variety of
Competition with the outer world makes it absolutely necessary
that we use our energies in the most effective manner; that most
effective manner is the one by which through repetition and
experience we acquire skill and ability. The important matter to
decide is the degree to which we can specialize. This degree
varies with the work and the individual. To an alert and active
mentality routine work becomes drudgery, while to the opposite
type, mental work is annoying. In an industry, men gradually fit
in with the most suitable work. Each man's job should be one that
is best for him.
Nothing has been said thus far regarding the invention of new
forms of articles to manufacture, or of new methods of machinery
for manufacturing articles. These elements and many others are
necessary in order to complete a successful plant, but the
fundamentals embraced in a statement regarding the habit-action of
man represented by special ability and skill acquired by
experience, and the habit-action of the group acquired in the same
way, constitutes a measure in determining the way at ninety per
cent of the cross roads in industrial progress. Anyone undertaking
the creation of a new organization or the management of a going
concern must grasp these facts.
The value of experience, if acquired in an industry where such
fundamental principles have been recognized, should be given the
highest rating. Experience, however, in an industry where the
energies of men were not most effectively employed and where there
was not a recognition that the effective employment of man's
energies require a general development of mind and body up to the
man's capacity, cannot be counted as wholly good unless, through
force of purpose, there is the strength to adopt a new path.