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This blog is about craftsmanship and why it’s important


When I was working in Germany a colleague of mine talked a lot about the Handwerkzeug. She meant that people need to acquire basic skills before developing their career any further. And I agree with that. A first job is important as it lays the foundation of the further steps. And like a house, a career needs a steady foundation. So the basic advice for junior people is to find a spot where they can learn the basics. People need to get their hands dirty and stand with their boots in the mud. If not, they will build their career on quick sand.
But there’s a problem. One of the people I hired said to me that he could not understand why he had to do the same stuff a second time. Well it’s clear why. You need to do stuff twice or more just to prove to yourself it wasn’t beginner’s luck and that you can evolve in something you are familiar with. Or in other words you need to develop craftsmanship.
And here’s a double problem. On the one hand we have computers and robots taking over basic skills. On the other hand people are reluctant to go deep in the acquisition of skills. I am not sure if both are related, but they cause problems.


Richard Sennett talks about deskilling. People lose their skills, or do not acquire them, because there is no repetition. No deepening of the skill. We don’t have to do the same over and over again. Repetition is required. Imagine you had to learn writing without it? With every stroke of the pen the skill deepens. And this is valid for many skills. But we are forgetting that.
You don’t have to know anything anymore to achieve things. Knowledge? Go find it on google. Reading maps? Use your GPS. Writing? Dictate it to your device. And there’s the spelling checker. Designing a building? Let CAD do it. And in the future we will have self-driving cars you can tell by voice command where to drive to. Calculating? Ha! You could argue that if there’s machines to do stuff for us, why should we be able to do it ourselves? The answer is simple. Machines break down too. Or sometimes you need to think further than the machine. People who follow their GPS blindly, drive their car into disaster. Or in highly automated hazardous environments we still need to understand how it all fits together and how it works. How can we close the right valve or take the necessary corrective action?
So we need to develop those skills. Acquiring Handwerkzeug we stay critical and self-reliant. If we do not acquire the basic skills we will depend totally from the ubiquitous technology around us. Sp if technology fails, or we get lost, or if we need to write, calculate, decide, intervene, override, …

10,000 hours

The only way to acquire a skill and develop craftsmanship is repetition. You need to do things several times. There’s a theory that you can develop a skill through 10,000 hours of practice. The Theory has been rebutted but still is quite popular. You can read a paper about it here. Whatever the number of hours (really talented people need less hours), the message is clear: practice. Repetition is the mother of craftsmanship. And craftsmanship is the basis of a solid career.

Don’t be an Imposter

It’s difficult.  How can we keep our motivation for learning if we are literally surrounded by apps and access points. You can become an imposter through the web and the abundance of apps. Because you simply can fake being competent, but it’s not a sustainable position. So don’t be an imposter. Learn a skill. Craftsmanship is important. Still.


David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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