The CEO takes the pulse of employees and customers while also assessing external competitive and market pressures, then makes a strategic decision about which products to release. The stonecutter sees a face in the natural angles of a stone’s edges and structures the rest of her sketch around that emerging relationship. As they operate at their craft, neither limits his or her judgment strictly to subjective or objective knowledge or deductive reasoning.To work at something with craftsmanship, committed practitioners must rely on both control and openness in their work—at the same time.
So what? How does this apply in the real world?
Getting out of the potter’s studio and stonecutter’s workshop, how do these qualities work in everyday life? Can we really learn from craftsmen in ways that matter to us? There’s no doubt about it: subjective thinking is hard to pin down.
relies on paying attention to our attention, by maintaining awareness of our biases.
having a general vision in mind when beginning that they keep in mind throughout their work, and which is open to change.
learning to let go of the need for ultimate control by allowing for goals to be clarified and reshaped as work develops.
maintains tension using skillful with methods and tools to manifest the vision they intend while managing the tension between control and openness.
appreciating multiple truths by imagining, predicting and creating subjective outcomes by thinking in the qualities of their medium.
reckoning with power by courting surprises, open to and discerning with risk.
slowing down to go fast by pushing boundaries and engaging the constraints of their medium. They negotiate limitations, work at the edge, and find new boundaries.
taking a stand in defining their work by exploiting relationships between properties of the medium in pursuit of a result.
evaluating and assessing the effectiveness of the experience they create, and the methods they use to accomplish them, rather than measuring—and thus, moving others around them.
Just what are we trying to see?
Tones, textures, movements, interactions, relationships—these are things that we perceive and feel. They cannot be objectively measured. For instance, we can count the people at a meeting, but that tells us little about the mood of the room. Is it upbeat, flat, intense, or contentious? And everyone at that meeting might have a different take on the effectiveness of that hour, and it would be true for them. We experience the same qualities very differently.
While most of us will not be a head of state or a stone mason, we do all think in these qualities every day. If we didn’t think subjectively, we would lack sensitivity when driving and miss the speed limit. Without subjective thinking, we wouldn’t appreciate the impact of a powerful performance, a moving speech or a well-designed machine.
This post is part of a series #LookToCraftsmen set for publication in 2019.