All fields of technology and business move toward increasing specialization. Something that starts out as a new innovation or a business idea can soon be divided into a number of derivative niches. Even the original idea is likely to be the result of increased specialization in a larger field.
Author Kevin Kelly illustrates increasing specialization by focusing on how cameras have evolved: “The first camera with photographic film was invented in 1885. Once incarnated, the idea of the camera started to specialize. Within years of its birth inventors devised tiny spy camera, extra large panoramic cameras, compound lens cameras, high-speed flash cameras. Today there are hundreds of specialty cameras, including those for use deep underwater, to cameras designed for the vacuum of space, or those to capture the infrared, or the ultraviolet.”
Business ideas, business process, even organizations, follow a similar pattern. When a company or a department one day decides to add services to their portfolio they will soon start differentiating those services in order to better serve their clients who themselves operate in highly specialized niches.
This is something we see reflected in enterprise social network tibbr’s subject directories. In fact, the way tibbr’s subject directory works was specifically designed to support the trend of increasing specialization. tibbr does so through these three design fundamentals:
- The subject directory is a hierarchy. A subject can have a parent subject and child subjects. People can follow those subjects that are relevant to them.
- tibbr’s subject hierarchy evolves over time as users create new subjects, many of them child subjects of other subjects.
- Information posted to a tibbr subject automatically “flows up” to the parent subject (and to the parent subject’s parent subject).
The combination of these three points holds a powerful implication for business: as everything becomes increasingly specialized, you don’t lose out on relevant information.
Imagine you are interested in the new, and rapidly developing, field of 3D printing. You or one of your colleagues has set up a tibbr subject to collect news about 3D printing in one place. You are either the owner of, or a follower of, the 3D printing subject. 3D printing, though a novel field, is subject to specialization and if 3D printing is important to your organization you’ll likely witness that sub-subjects will appear to cover 3D printers for the home, 3D printers for turbine components, 3D printers for the aviation industry etc.
Or you may not notice. And that’s kind of the point. As the field of 3D printing becomes subject to increasing specialization, updates increasingly move into the subjects representing the rapidly developing niches of 3D printing. But you still receive all updates related to 3D printing because something posted to Technology.3Dprinting.Aviation is automatically posted to Technology.3Dprinting which is the subject you are following. The information “flows up” and reaches your wall because you are following the parent subject.
Over time, your interest in 3D printing may develop from a generic interest to, say, one in medical devices. At that point, following the original 3D printing subject results in too much information being posted to your wall and you’ll want to hone your subscriptions so that, yet again, the information that gets posted to your wall is as relevant as possible.
The 3D printing example illustrates how tibbr, through the application of three basic principles, mirrors the way the world works. In a dynamic world, we benefit from working with tools that have similar dynamics built in.
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