We live in a “hurry up” culture. Efficiency, speed, and scale have become ends in themselves more than a means to an end. When things are stable, the penalty we pay is not enjoying the scenery as we speed by; in times such as we are in now, it can be terminal.
The essence of craft lies in a deep understanding of the material we work with, skill, dedication and preparation. I think it may well be the case that if what we do is not a craft, from mountain climbing and skiing to coding and journalism, it will probably be automated.
Talking yesterday with Steve Done reinforced this idea for me. Steve is a skier, and one of his teachers was a famous mountain guide. Steve recalled how, in avalanche season, his guide would stand and look at the mountains before they set off for the day and mentally overlay what he saw with red, amber and green shading. Green was good to ski, with limited avalanche risk, amber uncertain and red dangerous. The shading was the result of intuition informed by years of experience, practice and failure.
Far too often, we do the equivalent of just heading off down the slope in pursuit of speed and efficiency. Those who warn of danger are often sidelined if it gets in the way of the goal we have set.
There was another great blog brought to my attention today by Sue Heatherington on a piece by Donella Meadows on “Dancing with Systems” which is worth reading; several times. These two pieces – Steve’s on skiing and Sue’s on Donella Meadows resonated strongly.
Right now, we’re in business avalanche country. The smallest of shocks are precipitating landslides. We need to take the time to understand that we are way beyond efficiency and process thinking and deep into unpredictable systems and need to act accordingly.