Businesses built on convention harness scientific management thinking. Models, evidence, plans, design. When we know what we want to do, it works well. We can target demographics, map competition, measure acceptance. Make sure the client is getting what they want better from us than from the competition. It works, it’s proven, and it’s average. The very act of marketing for volume growth using the known puts us in the middle of the distribution curve, and if we’re really good towards the top couple of deciles. We make money, but not much of a difference.
Artisans are different. There is something of the alchemist in them. They make what they make because it wants to be made, and hope somebody will like it. They’re the ones who when you say “I was thinking of something like this” are likely to respond “no you weren’t, you were looking more for this”. Their response has a compelling combination of assuredness and humility in it. They understand what you have described differently, and in my experience they are right far more often than wrong. Their skill requires deep understanding of their craft, and of us, whether they are accountants or carpenters. They unerstand the whole, and the part that what we are asking for plays in it, whether that’s a business plan or a library.
Alchemy is a fascinating process, starting with breaking down what we’re looking at into its fundamental component parts, then taking from that what’s important to what we want to do, and reassembling it into the form that will deliver. The process of taking the base metal of what we offer them, turning it into gold, and giving it back to us.
The trick is of course everything that they need is there. In our aspirations, our perceptions and the materials. It’s not about adding some new magic ingredient, it’s about rearranging what already exists, and bringing what’s under the surface into view.
Michaelangelo was an artisan and alchemist. Whether it was bringing the David out of a block of Marble, or the Creation of Adam, he spoke volumes to us using what was already there.
Artisinal Businesses are alchemical. They are rarely led by the “hair on fire” entrepreneur, but rather they take things we already know and use, and make them better. More functional, more memorable, more beautiful. At the corporate level. Apple is an artisan, Microsoft an entrepreneur. Facebook is an entrepreneur, ello is an artisan. At the smaller business, it is Hiut, Patagonia, Peak District Artisans
We’re entering the age of the artisan. We don’t need more stuff, we need what we have to be better. We need less of the mundane, and more of the beautiful, and it’s down to us to do it.