What comes to mind when you think of a craft? Is it cutting zig-zags into cardstock with craft scissors? Or chiseling away at a block of wood? Does what you do for work come to mind? If not, it should.
A craft is “an activity involving skill in making things by hand.” This definition feels both very limited, yet also quite expansive.
On the surface, the definition might give you the impression of creating a physical asset, but upon further inspection you see intangible things can also be crafted. Technically an article is a thing, and I am writing this article with my hands right now. That makes writing a craft, and by that measure my craft (software development) is too.
In fact our roles at work could apply this logic. So…if our work is a craft, then why does our craft matter? What does it mean? And most importantly, how do we apply it to what we do every day?
If you look at your work like a craftsperson might, then you'll begin to see the importance of what you do in a whole new way.
In doing this, you start to see that you can practice with more intention. Step outside of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before. In turn, you’ll get feedback from yourself, peers, and leaders, and feedback is one of the most valuable tools you have in your arsenal, so use it.
When you treat your work like a craft, you’ll find that, instead of just considering your work done or not done, you will start to view your work as a thing. And the changing of this lens will allow you to step back and judge the finished product and see how it actually turned out. Is it good? Is it great, even? The essence of my previous statement is the key of why this matters; is my work good? If not, then what can I do next time to make it better?
When you view your work as a craft, you hold yourself more accountable. For example, when working in the confines of a technology stack, where does the line get drawn? Is that a limitation of the framework, or are you taking the easy road? Before you go to write that function for the third time (which you wouldn’t because we all write perfectly DRY code), ask yourself, “What is the result of taking this action?”
Holding yourself accountable can be challenging at first. Nobody likes to feel like they messed up, but if you don’t take ownership of your mistakes, you’re denying yourself the ability to learn from them.
By observing the things that you do day to day, you will quickly begin to see opportunities that have long been there that you can apply this craft-based approach to; in the past they just may not have manifested themselves in a way that stood out.
At Ample, we apply this concept basically every day. Whether everyone knows it or not, we are mentally asking ourselves “why” we are doing this task before we do it, every time. The question itself might take on a more nuanced approach, though.
For example, when developers plan a new body of work, that question might present itself like this:
Then if we don’t find sound reasoning in the answers to these types of questions, it now becomes our duty to find out what that answer is. Sometimes it means looking at other skills we already have, but the hope is it means learning a new framework or expanding your knowledge and use of microservices. This allows us to continually deliver great solutions to our clients and push ourselves to the next level.
All of this is to say, I’m not asking anyone to become a master crafter, but I am asking you: Are you the best that you can be, or are you simply good enough?
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