The Problem with the Problem
As artisans, we care about our work; it is an inherent part of how we see ourselves and our self-esteem. It is also true, of course, of all of us. It’s just that artisans feel it more acutely.
I’m noticing that more and more, this is presenting an issue. We find ourselves in a world where work is required to deliver short-term performance at minimum cost and risk. It leaves little room for reflecting on the nature of the problem or for second-order thinking regarding any solution we apply. There is little attention paid to the possible consequences of the solution; we’ll deal with that when it arises - hopefully on someone else’s watch.
As artisans, the issue is that we have a problem with the problem, and it is a relationship issue. If we do not own the problem and have agency over it, we find ourselves as what our Australian cousins term bodgers - a person who makes or repairs something badly or clumsily., rather than using our skills to create something that lasts.
It shows. When we’re taking a brief, we can sense it. A discomfort, a sense of embarrassment, and a silent plea, not to mention what we both sense. It makes the brief somehow mechanical, without a soul, and something to be disposed of quickly because there is no joy to be had from solving it well.
There’s a price to be paid. The first bodge will do a job, but the second iteration - the bodged solution to a bodged solution is where the wheels start to wobble, which pains us. We know what we are doing and that we may not have an option given the culture we find ourselves in, but it hurts. It’s not who we are. It interferes with our sense of self.
I wonder, though, whether the pendulum may be swinging back. In this week's Economist, there is an article about the “New Age of the Worker” (paywall) on how social and economic dynamics are changing the nature of supply and the balance of power. We can find it difficult to sense because we expect tomorrow to be much like yesterday when in fact, it isn’t.
Pride in our work matters, and we need to be aware and attuned to those places where we can find it.
There is a different definition of a bodger; the English one - someone who makes furniture out of green wood. That’s a different form of engagement altogether, and a foundation of craft.
We can decide what sort of bodger we want to be.
The problem with the problem we are given to solve is not the problem; it’s our relationship with it.