christine’s THOUGHTS ON the importance of CRAFTSMANSHIP



Artist Ann Hamilton has said, “labor is a way of knowing.”

In other words, what we work on is what we understand about the world. If this is true, and I think it is, then those of us who have disproportionately relied on principles of efficiency over innovation and data over intuition, have disproportionately benefited from the most profound kind of principle of the industrial age: efficiency and data only cover part of the problems we face

Predefined problems no longer dominate our workdays. Our world is becoming more complex. We can no longer limit ourselves to playbooks, worksheets, and top ten lists. Those tools help, but are ultimately limiting. If something happens that the playbook doesn’t account for, you are left wondering what to do, able to shift blame elsewhere, or hand the problem down the line.

Complexity confronts us most often in the form of other human beings. People get promoted into management or manage fast growing business units and face situations for which they are unprepared but expected to perform with mastery. Operating outside of their expertise is challenging—for everyone.

Business is more than producing widgets. Lack of management and leadership capability impacts the company’s performance. It also impacts the quality of solutions they are capable of developing. So when it comes to open ended problem solving and learning to improvise with what we are given; craftsmen have something to teach us.

Having to work with a material where they cannot be sure what will happen, is something they are used to. Improvisational thinking in the face of uncertainty is useful to leaders in addition to the more structured training and education offered to them today. Even in the face of countless books and articles about how important it is, most traditional business school programs and organizational training fail to address sophisticated thinking about ambiguous problems.

The path toward Craft captures deep understanding and insight—and it requires us to invest our time and attention in its cultivation.

Today we are becoming overwhelmed with the need for instant gratification and validation that we matter. Distractions like social media give us a warped sense of meaning and belonging, as well as another source of information to pay attention to outside of ourselves.

Our need to belong, to understand, to explore, to connect to others and the world around us, to know safety and to know risk, to express and create are core to the human experience.

To live and work with Craft is a journey in the most literal sense. To those that can reckon with the very real and sometimes agonizing tension of process and results, it can be an rewording trail. After we commit to what it is we want to learn, we find there are few, if any, guides. When guides do appear, we learn it’s important to choose carefully—finding ourselves 3 degrees off course years down the road can cost us emotionally, financially, and even physically.

Craftsmanship, living and working with craft, is a path. We need to learn from as many voices as we can. The best in the world, from worlds who happen to have camera’s pointed at them — AND — from the worlds in which no camera is present — either by design — or because culturally we might have forgotten to be curious about their path and insights.

Thanks for listening.