Embracing the work as craft requires distinct attitudes and capabilities of solving the problem at hand, but also the intellectual vision and insight to find new problems. Seeing what is missing involves the application of creativity.
Executives looking to craftsmen for help? At first it seems a ridiculous proposition. If we’re to adopt the stereotypes for a second, craftsmen don’t have a tremendous amount of credibility in rational circles as refined problem solvers. When we think of successful, effective people craftsmen aren’t the first to come to mind
But maybe we’ve been missing something. The important point to take is how they approach their medium. True master craftsmen see that cluster of subjective problems not as obstacles but as exciting opportunities to learn and flex their skills. They view obstacles as puzzles to work through.
And here’s something to wonder about: due to the daily discipline of immersing themselves in the potential of their medium and being in constant engagement with its constraints, when they are in the face of complexity, true craftsmen might display greater intelligence in their medium than many of us do in our own professions. This is what is meant by holding the tension of problem seeking and problem finding. For this group it is often both mental and physical—sometimes emotional.
It implies important lessons that professionals can take to their work. Professionals can take valuable lessons from how craftsmen approach their work. Craftsmen seek ambiguity, disruption and surprise in the same way professions seeks stability, efficiency and permanence. They invite surprise by rubbing up against the constraints of their medium—on purpose or by accident. Taking risks is what keeps them vibrant and feeling alive. Craftsmen seek the kind of solutions that stimulate surprises, benefitting from the growth stimulated by the wonder of the unknown. As a result, they enjoy intensity, determination, experimenting, autonomy, motivation, satisfaction, creativity, learning, and transformation as they work.
Can craftsmen teach us how problems can help us come closer to these sorts of experiences? Can we apply craftsmanship principles to shaping our businesses? Can the day to day tasks of our jobs be turned into the challenges of craftsmen? Can we learn to see the daily grind the way a craftsman views opportunity? How do I build a team of a company of craftsman?
Achieving craft in our decision making means learning to use judgement and imagination in our own work. Turning simple problems into craftsman’s problems means relaxing our grip on what we perceive to be objective data (there is none) and crossing the Rubicon. We need to value subjective knowledge and better integrate our multiple intelligences toward creative solutions.