Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930

By Catherine L. Fisk | Go to book overview

6
Corporate Management of Science &
Scientific Management of Corporations

Many large corporations established research and development facilities in the first decade of the twentieth century to systematize invention. Innovations became more likely to be made in a research lab or in some other collective setting by someone working as an employee of a corporation. At the same time, large businesses adopted the methods of scientific management. They restructured jobs so that complex tasks were divided up and performed piecemeal by less-skilled workers, they rationalized production so that supervisors rather than skilled labor and foremen controlled the manufacturing process, and they improved record keeping so that the productivity (and therefore the wages) of each worker could be measured and calibrated. The pace and order of work and many aspects of working conditions were no longer left to the discretion of individual workers and foremen. The development of personnel management within a framework of managerial capitalism transformed working life. In the first few decades of the twentieth century, science was applied to management and management was applied to science. The scientific management of corporate science changed the ownership of ideas in the workplace.

The spread of bureaucratic employment practices and the growth of firms eventually narrowed differences in legal status (“master” and “servant”) that previously had separated creative employees from machine operators and office clerks. After 1900, just as the social class line was becoming increasingly clear between the middle class and the working class and between office and manual workers, the legal class line between working- and middle-class employees was becoming increasingly faint. All were employees of large firms,

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