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The Artisan and Resilience
Something about intimacy
It doesn’t take long for an organisation’s starting assumptions to become management dogma and resistance to change. Issues that arise get externalised to be the fault of the people in it, the government, or anything other than the increasing insularity of the organisation itself.
So it’s hardly surprising that mental health, resilience, and a whole host of intangible and hard-to-measure ailments have become a plague affecting organisations created long before the seismic waves of technologies, pandemics and the existential angst of climate change started to shake their foundations.
Leadership requires a sensitivity to surroundings that John Boyd termed “fingerspitzengefühle” - fingertip feeling. An exquisite intimacy with the systemic nature of the environment we are in. That intimacy is rendered lifeless by an obsession with efficiency over evolution and investor attitudes that prioritise arbitrage over long-term involvement. So it is hardly surprising that people in these organisations pick up the signals that they are as disposable as wet wipes and just as difficult to recycle. The impact of the surprise of feeling the ground moving beneath our feet with nothing to anchor us does little for our sense of wellbeing. Being worked to capacity at the lowest feasible cost eats into the financial and emotional reserves that resilience requires.
The artisan, however, whatever their craft is more adaptable. They are more sensitive to signals because they are less isolated by layers of management and process that distance them from the materials and clients. They are makers of a whole, not production line workers working with parts. They are not enclosed by a regular monthly salary (and the temptation to sell that salary forward in the form of debt) and are willing to ride the waves of variable income as they find meaning in the sense of craft that defines them. They are aware of the changing contours of their business and the plasticity to shape themselves to it.
It’s to do with love and intimacy. Without it, change will always surprise us.
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”
Sun Tzu. Art of War.