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Was he an innovator? A “shameless fraud”? Or maybe Frederick Winslow Taylor is the most influential Philadelphian you’ve never heard of.

Taylor is credited with helping invent and codifying a philosophy that forever changed the way companies treat employees. The concept, called “scientific management,” introduced the idea that any workflow could be analyzed and reformatted to gain maximum efficiency.

It was an early version of the relentless push for productivity that led to the assembly line, industrial age factories, and even the habit of clocking in and out.

The philosophy — based on measurement of quantitative factors like speed and volume, instead of qualitative ones like worker or manager well-being — was strengthened by the rise of computing algorithms that could even better predict outcomes. Though founder Jeff Bezos has shied away from the comparison, many attribute Amazon’s meteoric rise to his implementation of a form of “digital Taylorism.”

What was the Philly guy who invented it thinking? Explore a recap of the idea’s possibly specious origins in the thread below.

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Avi Wolfman-Arent

Avi Wolfman-Arent is a host on 90.9 FM and an education reporter with WHYY News, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and education technology...