Why are the concepts of craft, design and beauty so important to the future of business?
Social philosopher Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman is an exploration into the meaning of craftsmanship. His journey begins with the basics of technique and personal expression that define the mechanics of craftsmanship. Then he applies that philosophy to how craftsmanship could be at the epicentre of social good in modern society. Sennett’s view is that craftsmanship is an innate capability in nearly all of us, and that ‘nature furnished humanity at large with the intelligence to do good work (craft skills)’. The consequence of which was we became engaged citizens. He writes: ‘Our species ability to make things reveals more what we share. Learning to work well enables people to govern themselves and become good citizens.’
It is this deep thinking around the deep social constructs of craftsmanship which allows us to envision how as humanity and individuals we are able to re-engage meaningfully with each other, and feel respected within a wider group.
‘Man seeks those tools that once again can be the bringer of peace and be a maker not a breaker of civilisation, man uses and applies those tools for the collective good’, argues Sennett.
Working well: Reflecting on the craftsman analogy, how and why do people will work well. The answer is opposite to the widely held view that, the motivation to work well is defined, not by the need to do good work, to collaborate and find meaning in that work, but by pure competition. In fact, the combination of craftsmanship and participatory cultures demand by default that we must work together collectively to higher standards.
Adam Smith declared in The Wealth of Nations that in a factory ‘the man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations … becomes as stupid and as ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become’. Craftsmanship in the 21st century provides us with a framework to reverse this trend. Because the craftsman constructs authentically. His honesty is communicated through his work, which then holds an inherent eternal truth. And the craftsman represents all of us with a desire to do something well, concretely and for reasons for other than material profit. It’s the unleashing of this deep motivation that we seek.
What if we were to evolve craftsmanship as a true practice for all of us? What if we talked about the ‘Crafting Organisation’, a business operating from a position of deep self-belief, always in beta, curious and confident to face the future? The Crafting Organisation is elegant in everything it does. Seeing the potential of creating beautiful outcomes in the most unusual ways. For example, a company that reduces inputs, recycles everything and creates higher revenues and profits as a consequence. Or, it could be the product, the service, the experience designed in such a way that it uplifts us, gives us joy, salves our soul a little whilst helping us in practical ways.
Is this not a more beautiful way to describe business which not only embraces our humanity, but celebrates it? Tim Smit founder of the Eden Project likes to say that beauty will be the most important word we use over the next 15 years. I would also argue that craft is not far behind.
Based on Do Design. Why beauty is key to everything. Copyright Alan Moore 2016. Published by The Do Book Co.