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Scaling and the Universality of Function Diversity Across Human Organizations


Function diversity, namely, the range of tasks individuals can perform, is essential to productive organizations. This concept has been studied in disparate discipline contexts, while general patterns and mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we first analyze over five thousand observations of top-down organizations -- US federal agencies, Norwegian companies, and US universities, and find that the number of distinct functions scales with organizational size, approximately as a power law with an exponent of 1/2. Further, we find common patterns in the distribution of function abundance within organizations. This universality suggests that human organizations, despite differences in their purpose, structure, and culture, may share common mechanisms for creating specializations. Additionally, we find that cities -- bottom-up organizations -- differ from top-down organizations and exhibit logarithmic scaling. We discuss potential avenues for modeling the mechanisms for these observations using history-dependent random processes, and offer several criteria for model selection.


Working Paper


Vicky Yang, Christopher Kempes, Hyejin Youn, Sid Redner, Geoffrey West

Date Published



Yang, Vicky, Christopher Kempes, Hyejin Youn, Sid Redner, and Geoffrey West. 2023. Scaling and the Universality of Function Diversity Across Human Organizations.


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