Seth Godin on Craftspersons

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In a previous post,  I wrote about Seth Godin’s theory of team contributions. One level is called the Craftsperson. Here’s how Godin defines this kind of contribution: using hands or a keyboard to do unique work that others can’t (or won’t). Craftspeople are essential to most endeavors; they’re the experts or creative drivers who serve as the final arbiter of getting it right or declaring the project finished.

What defines a craftsperson from other workers? Passion is one quality; a craftsperson would do the work even if no one paid him. In fact, that’s how a craftsperson becomes so skilled or so specialized  – hours and hours of research, practice or experimentation on her own time, just because she cares so much about the work.

Craftspeople take their work seriously and personally; they consider their work an extension of themselves. There’s no such thing as “good enough” work, even when their customers don’t demand the best – or even understand it. A craftsperson will spend time and effort on things the customer may never see or appreciate, simply because he understand and appreciates it. The mindful selection of materials, using the best tools and latest methods, or adding unique and creative touches to products or services are signs you’re working with a true craftsperson.

In business, a craftsperson will insist on good process design from the beginning, and fight against shortcuts of any kind. Part of their passion for doing it right the first time is the knowledge that they’ll be the ones asked to fix it if it’s done wrong.

Craftspeople are the ones who bring concepts to life and make ordinary products extraordinary. This is how Robert Pirsig the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, defines Quality with a capital Q: “Quality. It’s when someone is so completely present for and dedicated to his or her act that they become hard to separate; they become one.” Caring, he says is the core of quality; no one can create true quality without caring deeply.

Who is the craftsperson on your team? If you can’t identify one, you probably have a problem, whether or not it has become evident. If no one on your team cares deeply, passionately, and personally about their work, you’ll always be just average at best, and you risk lapsing into mediocrity. Find someone who cares that much, and make them feel valued and welcome.

Read that last sentence again, slowly. Craftspersons may not always conform to conventional rules; they may be quirky and challenging to manage. But they’re worth the effort. Make sure everyone understands the value they bring; discourage eye rolling and pained sighs when they get passionate. Remind everyone to honor what it takes to master a skill.

“Mastery is a mindset: It requires the capacity to see your abilities not as finite, but as infinitely improvable.”

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us


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