When Henry Ford implemented his conveyer-belt assembly line, capable of assembling a Model T in 93 minutes, he didn’t just revolutionize the auto industry - he reshaped the employee environment. Each of Ford’s employees had a narrow and specific task to accomplish, be it assembling a camshaft or installing a bumper. These simple tasks were repeated hundreds of times per day within 25 cm of space. Because the tasks were so simple, employees needed no special skills and very little training. The work was unchallenging and brain numbing.
The Ford assembly line was widely imitated, influencing all types of businesses for years to come. It was an extremely effective process in an era where most companies produced a concrete, physical product, and mass production was the primary goal.
With the advent of computer technology and virtual products, industry has experienced a massive shift. Billion-dollar companies like AT&T, Google, and Facebook provide a new wave of intangible products and services. The crucial capital of these companies is ideas, not a specific manufactured product. Therefore, they are much more dependent on the talent and intellectual capital of their employees than previous giants like Ford to whom employees were replaceable and interchangeable.