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Walking Between Worlds

Written by: Bill Sherman on Monday, 16 June 2008, 12:06 AM

“When the mind is employed about a variety of objects it is somehow expanded and enlarged.” –Adam Smith

Smith presented the concept of the Pin Factory in his Wealth of Nations. He argued that the division of labor increases productivity. A team of pin-makers, each specialized on a single task could outproduce a single pin-maker.

Specialization creates a closed system and relies on trust. You rely on the person before you to do their job. And the person after you trusts that you will do your job correctly.

So, then how do we reconcile Smith’s praise of the Pin Factory with this quote that variety expands the mind? We cannot be both specialists and dilettantes, can we?

Let us consider the entreprenuer “the one who takes between” as the observer within the pin factory. The entrepreneur is not the long-term specialist. The entrepreneur gains value by taking ideas from one sphere of commerce and transplanting them to a new area.

Entrepreneurs are the ones who “walk the floor” of Smith’s worldwide pin-factory.

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