Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been exploring on this blog the idea of the artisan in the changing world of business. Who are they? Where are they? What makes them tick? Can we choose to be one?
I have come to think of it as a spectrum. Artists at one end, people with a drive to create something unique that materialises their view of the world for others, and whose art takes priority over everything else, even money. Those whose careers are determined by their art.
At the other end are Buskers – skilled individuals with real capabilities who develop careers using their skills and go to the highest bidder they can find. Their careers are their art.
In the middle are the artisans, those whose work is to turn art into goods and services. They put art to work. I have also begun to understand that thare are far more artisans, and “latent” artisans out there than I realised. Our work cultures rarely recognise them because they don’t fit a standard job specification, but they are vital. They are organisational glue.
We won’t really get an insight into the effect the pandemic has had on our work and social ecosystems for a while – late next year probably, when the vaccines have taken effect and people have to make conscious decisions as to how much of “old normal” they will welcome, tolerate or reject. I have a suspicion though from my conversations that the pandemic has hatched a lot of artisans. Those skilled and motivated individuals who have come to a different perspective on the importance of the office, and office culture on their jobs.
Yes, there is the absence of “water cooler” conversations, but there is also the absence of the commute and the overbearing manager in the corner. People have discovered flexibility, families and more independence. Their sense of self reliance has increased markedly.
Some, those with good cultures and managers will welcome the return, whilst others will be subjected to force of circumstance and mortgage. Many however, will feel more empowered and independent. They will be the ones with in demand skills. Those who are nearer to the artist end of the spectrum than the busker end. People who not just put art to work, but can create it as well.
Avalanches don’t just happen. They are complex, triggered by combination of snowfall, layering, vibration, noise and myriad other variables. Work cultures are no different.
I am wondering what it will take for us to see an avalanche of newly aware artisans to change direction. To not just put art to work, but to put their own art to work in the company of others like them.
As those businesses whose survival depends on an old normal to return find it isn’t appearing, and others whose lifespans were ending anyway disappear and new businesses based on emerging needs and technologies, and with cultures more attuned to the circumstances we have emerge. Then the avalanche will have somewhere to go. It is not too big a stretch of the imagination to envisage those artisans in fragile or unhealthy businesses transferring their energy to new businesses creating meaningful art, and take the opportunity to change the shape of their lives and careers for the better.
Avalanches aren’t gradual. They happen suddenly, when the right combination of variables dictate.
Artisans, and those for whom the idea is attractive, as well as complacent organisations need to be ready for the rumble.
The next 12 months will be interesting.