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Bring on the Artisans

Somebody once said that you don’t know there’s been a revolution till someone’s won. Everything else is just noise and chaos.

I guess that puts us on the road to a revolution. What I notice most about the chaos is that it’s largely our refusal to embrace what’s happening, perhaps because it’s just so inconvenient.

The organisations we’ve built and the qualifications we’ve gathered in order to serve them are becoming rapidly ineffective as we move from the complicated of leveraging knowledge to the complex of discovering knowledge. The (largely fictional) guarantees that we felt to be there are evaporating. For many people, from recent graduates with early stage debt, to managers who’ve been in the same role for years servicing mortgages and school debt, the security that once existed in their respective investment and loyalty is rapidly disappearing. The instability we feel was coming anyway, just more slowly. The impact of Covid-19 has just accelerated it.

I see the biggest difference to be in the power relationship. It used to be the case that the big companies had the power – market presence, capital, brand and stability, but we sense that changing. Increasingly I think the power is moving to those who thrive in the midst of change, who have a combination of important skills and attitude. Many of those I work with are in professions that thrive on agility, from healthcare to coding. The good people are role models for anti-fragility, are in constant demand and have choices. For every one of those, there are ten(s) who look to them as a lead. Lose one of the good people, and there’s a herd effect.

We talk a lot about the importance of entrpreneurial spirit, often in the context of a “next big thing” for the organisation. I’m beginning to see it differently – I find the really interesting ones to be those individuals with said entrepreneurial spirit, who have the attitude of the artisan. Not so much “the next big thing” as “an independent fulfilling life”. I may be an optimist, but I notice many of those people I rate less obsessed with huge material success, and more occupied with enjoying the life they have the opportunity of living. It maybe the existential and disruptive presence of Covid-19, an increased awareness of the other challenges we collectively face and whatever it is, more humanity and beauty in our everyday lives is a wonderful thing and I welcome it.

Around fifteen years ago, Charles Handy and his photographer wife Elizabeth wrote a book “The New Alchemists” which is a favourite of mine, Handy has always been ahead of the curve, and the subject matter of his book reflects what I see happening now. I think the language of alchemy and artisans captures what we want to bring forth – the power of human imagination and intent in pursuit of something worthwhile and beautiful, that will be valued years ahead. Those who are interested in playing the infinite game as much as the short term finite game, and who value soul as much as short term gain. The sort of people who enjoy the ideas at beautiful.business.

Perhaps the revolution we are in reflects this. If when we realise the revolution is over, we find ourselves somewhere altogether more human, that would be a result.


None of us know what’s coming next, only that we can prepare better together than separately. Sharing ideas and aspirations without judgement to see what we might imagine. If the idea appeals, I’m putting together a place to talk about it to see what happens. Be good to have you there.

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About the Author

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Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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