So because I sometime blog from home and sometimes blog from my office, I decided to start a second book while I’m at home. So lucky for me, the first book on the top left corner of my shelf was Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation (a book I never read in its entirety in grad school). So here I go.

Smith dives right in arguing about the productivity benefits to the division of labor, an argument so worked through in recent history that it almost bears ignoring, but does strike me as interesting the extent to which Smith attaches specialization to progress, claiming that:

in every improved society, the farmer is nothing but a farmer; the manufacturer nothing but a manufacturer.

He goes on to argue that productivity increases come from unique aspects connected to the division of labor:

1) increased skill/dexterity
2) time saving by not having to swtitch tasks (which apparently makes one indolent and lazy)
3) mechanization

I’ll read more, but initially I’m struck by how anachronistic this would seem to most students graduating from American colleges today. The idea that productivity would come from doing one thing for very long periods of time would strike many as drudgery. Most of use who are knowledge workers would probably fall into the category of task switchers. I’m no productivity expert but I wonder what the research literature says about whether actually leads to more productivity. Interestingly, Yahoo has recently mandated that it’s workers work at the office, presumably because the ability to “switch tasks” at home makes their workers “indolent and lazy.” I have to say, I’m apparently a bit of an advocate of indolence since I’d rather fill my day with a range of diverse tasks that need to be completed. I’m a big believer in the “write 20 minutes a day” philosophy.