Making your organisation your craft

The things I read always feed my thinking. In turn, it produces different ways to approach the necessary work to achieve a brand result people will care about. This week I’m reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport.

In the book, Cal delves into what he calls a “craftsman mindset” as the path to a successful work life. While most will think it applies to the making of things, the craftsman’s hallmarks of quality and timelessness can also benefit the making of an organisation and the resulting brand.

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You the “craftsman mindset” is described as:

“There’s something liberating about the craftsman mindset: It asks you to leave behind self-centered concerns about whether your job is ‘just right’, and instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damned good. No one owes you a great career, it argues; you need to earn it – and the process won’t be easy.”

While the book talks about individual work, the ideas easily apply to broader thinking about organisations. After all, companies are started by people.

A lot of them start through necessity. I’m not referring to an “I need to change the world” kind of necessity, more a “put a roof overhead and food on the table” kind of necessity. Over time they build into something they and others care about.

Maybe the path is inherited. Gramps started something out of necessity, and now it’s the family business. Maybe the path is happenstance, where something came along that seemed like an excellent opportunity at the time. Maybe the path evolves, where something started as a side project turned into something bigger.

A famous example of happenstance is Apple. When Steve Jobs lost his job and needed to make some cash, he teamed up with Wozniak to tap into a growing fad and sell kit computer circuit boards to hobbyists. Hardly the change-the-world passion you would expect from the future most valuable company on the planet.

But one aspect of Apple’s success has always struck me as underappreciated. The work ethic sitting under it all – looking for ways to improve, learn, and do better. Vaunted for creativity, the real engine of Apple’s success is far less sexy – relentless dedication to the craft of being Apple.

In the book, Newport goes on to say “you adopt the craftsman mindset first and then the passion follows”. You could say Apple is one of the most famous examples of a craftsman approach to brand. No one could argue the passion didn’t follow.

Applying a craftsman approach to a brand requires a relentless focus on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and what you produce. It doesn’t matter if you’re making products or delivering services.

To learn about using deliberate practice to build a brand click here.

The Craftsman, a book on a related topic by professor of sociology Richard Sennett, speaks to the craftsman’s “desire to do a job well for its own sake”. Good craftsmanship winds its way through all manner of tasks bringing the kind of deliberate consciousness I’ve long espoused as the foundation of a brand.

Craftsmanship can be applied directly to the products and services, or more indirectly to enabling processes. Even more broadly, craftsmanship can be applied to the very way the organisation does business.

Almost in opposition to the current purpose passion input mania, the craftsman mindset turns it around, looking instead at the outputs. Do the work. Look for places to improve. Keep doing the work. Look for more places. Keep doing the work.

Make your organisation your craft and the brand will result.

See you next week.
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