Artisans and the Infinite Game

The industrial age has focused on outputs, efficiency and margin. Localised ROI. Extract, process, consume. Recycling was a late and forced consideration, still done as afterthought in most businesses thinking processes.

Artisans have always thought differently, or maybe not even thought as much as unconsciously understood that everything has a lifecycle, and what happens at the end of that cycle has to respect its next beginning.

Part of an artisan’s intelligence is her relationship with the raw material of her work. Where it comes from, how it got to her, what it feels like, what it wants to be. Its similar with the client – for her this is not a “product”, it is a form of catalyst; something that will change the clients life for the better. It is part of her love for the client and what she makes for them.

She also thinks about what happens when everything is done, when the relationship is over, and how what she has created moves on. Not through industrial recycling processes, but something altogether more organic. Maybe upcycling, or dismantling, or composting. How does it return eventually to a form where it becomes raw material that can be used anew?

I know code developers who think like this, and fashion designers, and builders, and cosmetic companies. There are no limits to artisinal thinking, we’ve just sidelined it whilst we’ve binged on consumption.

Every single organism on earth that we use has this thinking built in. Nothing else grows indefinitely, it just changes form, during its life and afterwards. Even the ultimate growth organism, cancer, eventually stops when it kills its host.

Artisans think infinite game – playing the game just to keep going for the joy of it. Winners and Losers are a finite game concept; playing to win for the short term satisfaction and no eye to the long term. Impoverished thinking in the light of what is available to us.

For the last two centuries we have been operating a finite game economy, and it’s in danger of killing us. What we are going through now gives us a chance to take stock, to recycle our economic thinking, and use what we have learned to create something better. To become artisans, whatever we do.

Because we can.

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