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New Artisans Journal
30th June 2023
This is the second of my Journals.
For the last eighteen months, I’ve posted my thoughts on New Artisans on a regular basis as I’ve explored ideas without any formal structure to see what resonates. This year, those thoughts have settled to something of a core, which I’ve explored further. Earlier this month, I posted a longer-form journal that started to bring ideas together in search of something like a manifesto, and I’ve continued that process today.
I do not have a plan for my daily posts; I write what’s on my mind from the work I’ve been involved in and the reading I do.
Looked at in retrospect, though, there is always a pattern. In my last journal, some significant themes emerged, most notably an idea of “enclosure” as specialisation and processes make us increasingly remote from the finished product or service we are part of. Whereas our workplace used to be more of a “commons” where we worked the same ground together, now we are more likely to be part of a mix of teams and technology that come together out of our sight.
I observed that, as in the case of the land enclosures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we have become detached from what we once thought of as “ours” and have become short-term tenants rather than residents when it comes to the work we do.
In my posts since then, the themes that have emerged have moved from the nature of the workplace to how we inhabit it.
Capacity, the way we work “all out” and are expected to and do comply with being accessible at any time, measured by increasingly intrusive surveillance and judged against a limited menu of performance criteria, has a toxic effect.
We talked about a need for “sanctuary” and the ability to “unplug”, as well as the chemistry of many workplaces that makes time for recovery challenging and relies more on “resilience” to cope with the inevitable surprises. Working at levels of measured output results in having no time to “stand and stare”.
I moved on to wondering what “sanctuary” might look like and touched on the idea of “third space”, something I’ll return to shortly. I considered the possibility of providing a place where we might grow and connect outside of the intensity of the workplace and what we might do there to look at the bigger picture of our lives and the role of work in it.
Yesterday, I touched on the idea of lifecycles and rites of passage and that the corporate workplace may play a very different part in the shape of our work lives as technology encroaches on areas we are used to thinking of as ours.
It leaves us with a view of the nature of the workplace and its direction, our relationship with it as employees and how, as artisans at different points in our evolution, we inhabit it.
It feels like a good place to turn another page on New Artisans.
Yanis Varoufakis describes the necessary properties of a manifesto as “speaking to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new…making us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised those truths ourselves…recognising that we have been acting as petty accomplices…and having the power of a Beethoven Symphony” No challenge, then.
I sense the need to start before we’re ready, to take what we are beginning to understand and work it, like dough, until it is ready to rise. So here is my first crude pass at what the manifesto, when it has risen, might include:
The workplace we inhabit is changing faster than our organisational ecologies can handle, and it is those who work in them as employees who are paying the price, financially, emotionally and spiritually.
Technology is disrupting the skills base of organisations as we have understood them. It will leave many stranded in a “no man’s land” between creativity and capability, unpracticed in the former and unwanted in the latter.
Work has always been central to our identity and understanding of ourselves, and we must change ourselves and our relationship with it so that it remains so.
There will be more, or maybe less, and some of you reading this will see that more than I do at the moment, and I need your eyes.
A manifesto, even one that meets the demanding criteria of Varoufakis, is useless unless it is put into practice. For that, we need two things; firstly, a “container” that can hold our metaphorical dough, and secondly, an oven to bake it in.
The best container I have found, and one that I think is good enough to start, is the idea of “Third Space”. It is a term that comes from the world of education and describes a place where academics meet practitioners, practitioners meet students, and all meet with the community they are part of on equal terms to explore and develop the work they do together.
Some people spend time in a “third place” as part of an exploration, whilst others become “third place professionals” who create and hold these containers for clients. (I have included a link at the end of this post to a short paper on “third places”. It is in the context of education, but in my view, can be applied equally and effectively to New Artisans and the world of work)
With regard to the “oven”, I see it as conversation. Robust, ambitious dialogue within small groups of those who may want either to spend some time in a “third place” as part of their own transitions or become “third place professionals”, working with clients who want to occupy a third place as part of their own development.
(For the sake of clarity, I’m not envisioning creating some form of business here; rather, I see it more like a “Guild” - a place where people doing “third space” work meet and share practice.)
Before I go further with this, I’d like to get together those who are interested in firing the oven and find out what they need from this.
To do that, I’ll open up Zoom on Wednesday 5th July at 6:00pm, with this journal as a framework to discuss,
Coming up Next
In addition to posting what I’m noticing on a regular basis, I’m going to explore and experiment with the idea of “third spaces” and consider how it might be adapted to what we need.
I’m also going to explore Donella Meadow’s work on “Places to intervene in a system” to see what we might learn from that about where New Artisans might most effectively do their work…
Have a great weekend. Hope to see you Wednesday.