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workers' selves that are usually considered matters of personal choice or judgment" (Leidner, 1993:24–25).
At the same time, however, and unlike in the past, there is evidence of an opposite trend—an overall increase in technical skill requirements and cognitive complexity of service jobs. The initial impact of information technology involved a shift from manual to computer-mediated information processing, but more recent applications involve the manipulation of a variety of software programs and databases. Even more recently, the rapid diffusion of access to the Internet has increased the potential for greater information processing and cognitive complexity. Secretaries at universities, for example, now often act more like research assistants than typists or receptionists. In the mid-1980s, the National Research Council (1986b) signaled the potential for information technologies to increase the skill and complexity of clerical work; over the last decade, there is more evidence of that trend occurring.
An additional source of cognitive complexity is the growth of business strategies that compete on product variety, customization, and innovation rather than low-cost, standardized goods. Workers who service and sell "mass customized" goods with shorter product development time and shorter product life cycles (Pine, 1993) must absorb much more product knowledge and constantly changing information that corresponds to the particular features, pricing, servicing, and legal regulations governing the products for which they are responsible.
Many companies also have adopted business strategies that compete on service quality, as advocated by management consultants from the mid-1980s on (e.g., George and Marshall, 1985; Albrecht and Bradford, 1989; Zemke and Schaff, 1989; Heskett et al., 1990; Schneider and Bowen, 1995). Arguably, to do so requires the redesign of customer service approaches so that workers have more autonomy, a variety of responses, and the ability to interact personally with customers and provide "one-stop shopping" (Schlesinger and Heskett, 1991). The approach advocates a "bridge from service to sales"—blurring the line between occupations that primarily service the customer (inquiries, billing, repairs) and those that primarily sell.
In some ways, these trends represent an attempt to return to