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The trouble with passion for the craft

“They want us to templatize our solutions”, she said. More pained than horrified by the latest stance taken by the boutique e-learning firm she worked with. About 800kms away, he was consulting for a large automotive company that was also going through a similar cycle of optimisation and standardisation. 2023 was hardly the year for craft.

Both firms were full of passionate, creative people. While the tools of their trade differed, for most of them, the deeper intrinsic motivation came from the autonomy they enjoyed, in treating each problem on its own merit and to solve each in its own unique way. But the leaders’ call for standardisation wasn’t irrational either. The market was asking for commodity while the firms were producing art. The market achieves equilibrium at a definition of “good enough” that is never “good enough” for artists…

At first, the market can’t wait for a problem to be solved. “It’s 2023! Where is my flying car??” they ask. Someone hires a bunch of engineers to solve this problem. Left to themselves, they will quickly go past “good enough” and build one with the improbability drive and the ability to carry nuclear warheads, just because they can. But they hit the “geek peak” when the “suit” in the room says “Enough is enough, we need to standardise this for mass production”. There’s no money to be made in a single flying car, however awesome she might be. And so compromises are made and features stripped down until they can produce flying cars fast and cheap.

Thereafter, it’s the same cycle over and over again with ebbs of incremental innovation and the flows of catching up on missing features / quality. For the geeks, most fun is to be had before the “geek peak”; but for the suits, most money is to be made in the long tail after the first point of equilibrium.

– A proud geek trying to understand the suits’ world through the business of consulting 🙂

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