What makes the true modern craftsman?
My grandfather passed away a couple of months ago. A sad moment, but simply his time came. The most valuable qualities he taught me were respect for others, hard work, and focus and precision in doing things. All these things do not come overnight, but he also taught me something else.
He started as a shoemaker, with a military school background, managed to self-educate and walked his way up to running one of the most popular shoe shops in our hometown at the time. When it comes to the process of creating the perfect shoes for clients, his enthusiasm was very contagious. Something so simple, and through my child’s eyes so basic and boring, was genuine craftsmanship in his book.
Even when he was in his office on the top floor going through the numbers, he would always come down to the store and interact with the customers directly, questioning their experience, receiving feedback, looking for space for improvement rather than advancing sales at any cost. He was his product’s greatest critic. Customers, as well as the coworkers, loved and valued him. At that time, this was not the best strategy to get your suit up to the board level. He knew the price of it, but it was more important to live the work with integrity.
When he was repairing grandchildren’s shoes in his spare time, you could see he truly enjoyed the process of creating something real and valuable with his own hands. It was his way of connecting back and cherishing the key element of walking the talk – consistency of mastery on an elementary level. In these moments he was like a child.
What makes true modern craftsmen?
We could start from having a great skill to create an extremely valuable product in a specific domain. Great skill would include, not only the “hard-core development” competencies but also high expertise within the other parts of the product development process. The whole creation process needs to include different perspectives – customer-wise, financial, organizational, human, etc. Real craftsmen dig and pursuit this.
Considering long-term sustainability and current challenges customers face, some activities are often underestimated but equally important in modern craftsmanship. For example, continuously building trust with customers or openly challenging each other. You grow, not as a sum of specific parts, but as a whole.
Use your actions and work to influence others so everyone can find inspiration and strength to overcome their challenges and raise standards. This is an inevitable contribution on the human level.
Yet, the effect of true modern craftsmanship is so subtle you unconsciously let it take you all in. You do not categorize it. You do not evaluate it. Even though it’s a combination of talent and hard practice, it seems so natural and simple. It cannot be sold as a label – you just feel it and it clicks. It is simply the ease of creation that lures your attention.
At the time, I perceived things differently. My grandpa was the best grandpa ever. He could repair any demolition of my sports shoes I planned to do playing with the ball. Treating my sneakers like customer shoes, he secretly gave me a great degree of freedom in my childhood life. He made sure I did my best to enjoy playing a soccer game and not be distracted by any limitations, terms and conditions we are so familiar with when taking care of our personal belongings or assets. It was a small and silent yet significant contribution in my customer journey of being little me.
So, to all fellow craftsmen out there, thank you.