The historical craftsmanship spirit - part 1 : the vertical organization structure

Craftsman at work

This post is part of my 200 words per day challenge that I am sharing publicly on Twitter in order to improve my writing and develop a writing routine. Feel free to join and comment.

The historical craftsman is a skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft.

Craftsmanship is tightly coupled to the history of mankind: it can be assumed that similar social positions have been around since sedentarization. However, the full concept of craftsmanship appears during Middle Age to define individuals making particular products or providing services based on highly tacit skills.

Those individuals are divided into three categories: the masters, the workers (journeymen) and the apprentices.

Masters are business owners. They have their own workshop and are their own bosses. They can also employ journeymen and teach apprentices.

Journeymen are skilled workers who have completed their apprenticeship but who did not reach mastery yet — and thus are unable to own their own business. Mastery is attained when a journeyman produces a so-called masterpiece, a highly complex product demonstrating the technical excellence of the journeyman and judged as such by already accomplished masters.

Apprentices are young people learning the basics of a specific craft. Every craftsman has to go through apprenticeship. And every craftsman is destined to shape apprentices.

Craftsmanship is the embodiment of a perpetual and iterative improvement through a vertical organization structure.

Craftsmen don’t stick around — our time on earth is limited — but they build with posterity in mind (think stone carvers and cathedrals) by educating the next generation and thus forging a lasting legacy. And it worked, since most educational systems around the globe are now inspired by this knowledge management mechanism (master degrees).

In the second part we will see that the craftsmanship system is not a purely vertical hierarchy, but a highly collaborative ecosystem comprising society as a whole: a horizontal organization structure.