Posts Tagged ‘craftsman’

About the Business Cycle

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

A business starts when an isolated craftsman makes a unique product with his unique tools for his unique customers. To find out what the customer needs the craftsman and the customer start a dialogue. They are inventing new possibilities. Out of the process of invention new tools and new approaches emerge.

In the next stage craftsmen share their trade and move to the next level, a company. They sell and share experience to and with their clients. In a company specialization takes place. People are selling or taking care of infrastructure. To make specialization work a dialogue is needed. Specialists create their own language and don’t understand that their colleagues and their customers are doing the same. If the mapping of all the language does not take place the company will look like the Tower of Babel. It will end its activity in a conflict caused by mis-understanding.

If the dialogue is successful the company standardizes its services and creates a product. It moves to a new level, the factory. In a factory not only the processes are standardized but also the language. Specialists are replaced by software, machines and cheap labor. The employees are not users of tools but are controlled by tools. The replacement does not happen without conflicts. It causes a battlefield between two opposing powers, the employers and the employees.

By carefully analyzing all the processes, getting rid of all the waste, the employees are finally totally replaced by programmed machines. The factory moves to the level of the Utility. It becomes an invisible repeatable process. The process only shows itself to the human when it is out of order. Humans are totally dependent of utilities and a fatal error simply stops society. This generates an extreme level of collective stress.

In the next stage new craftsman emerge. They use of the new invisible, hidden, infrastructure to create new products. The cycle starts again.

Many companies are now transformed into factories and utilities. Cheap labor is provided by the new economic powers China and India. The standardization of the processes is accomplished by the implementation of packages. When the dialogue in the company is disturbed the implementation of the package results in a financial and social disaster.

The jump to the level of the factory generates a conflict and the shock of the conflict lowers the performance of the company. The transition to a factory is hard to sell to the employees and the middle managers. The reduction of the performance is not appreciated by the customers also. The customers want a predictable and gradual improvement of the performance.

Many companies are not suited to move to the level of the factory. They are providing a service. The specialists, knowledge-workers, are constantly innovating their processes.

The specialists are not helped by a standardized process, a method. Methods are not a mechanism to control. They are an educational instrument. When people learn a method they acquire experience. They make mistakes, learn and adapt the method. A dominating not adaptable toolset stops the innovation in a company.

Innovation cannot be stopped at the human level. Users start to look for an alternative to move on and abandon the dominating central infrastructure. They create work-environments of their own and connect them. The effect is a highly unbalanced infrastructue.

This has happened when the PC was introduced and will happen all the time when a new user-friendly toolset appears. At this moment many new collaborative toolsets appear on the Internet. They support the new craftsman, the knowledge-workers, in the service industry.

Many toolsets are available on the market. They are dominating, highly specialized and disconnected. The toolsets support different types of craftsman, different types of companies, different types of factories and different types of utilities.

They don’t support the dialogue to reach mutual understanding, collaboration and innovation. This causes unnecessary conflicts, stress and finally a total blockage of every activity an employee wants to start. The result is de-motivation and finally apathy. The employee just does what he is told to do. He is transformed into a machine.

We need a toolset that supports the gradual movement from the level of the craftsman to the level of the utility. This will create the harmony so many people are looking for.

How to Create Cooperative Networks by Playing Complementary Roles

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

People have to cooperate to survive. Children need their parents to nurture and teach them. Parents need the help of their children when they are old. The basic principle behind cooperation is long-term reciprocity. People give something voluntary and sometimes for free to others or help the other trusting they get something of the same value back in the future.

To survive people have to have a long-term perspective. They have to sustain their environment and the supporting infrastructures to make sure that there are enough people and tools to help them when they are old.

The need to survive created the basic level concept of cooperation (the tribe). The tribe transformed into higher and more complex levels of cooperation (town, guild, state, corporation) when human society evolved.

To coordinate the complex structures the mental concept of the many leveled hierarchy was formed. This concept fails when the environment of the organizational structure becomes turbulent.

Hierarchies adapt too slowly to their environment. At this moment, hierarchies are falling apart in cooperating self-sustaining specialized network. The networks are gaining control over many activities that are now taking place at the level of the big corporation and the state.

A specialized network produces activities and products that are consumed by other specialized networks. To realize the output people have to play complementary roles.

When we can distinguish six basic roles:

  • Craftsmen (Senses, Patterns)

A craftsman has acquired experience by practicing. Craftsmen do not like too much change. Change requires new practicing and keeps him from producing.  A craftsman loves to make what he sees. He learns by copying. Examples are carpenters, painters, musicians, technicians and programmers. The craftsmen are the producers in the network. In many cases, programmable machines can replace their activities. Craftsmen use specialized tools. If their processes are standardized a process-model can be used to coordinated their activities.

  • Entrepreneur (Senses, Emotions)

An entrepreneur feels what preferences people have. Examples are retailers and brokers. Entrepreneurs sell the products the network is producing and buy products the network needs. They also are the people that negotiate contracts and make connections to other specialized networks. Entrepreneurs use technologies like relationship-management-tools and procurement-systems.

  • Politicians (Emotions, Patterns)

A politician structures collective emotions by creating consensus. He feels the opinions of the collective, has the gift to influence opinions, and gets people into collaborative action.   A politician looks after the social cohesion in the network. He uses opinion polls and media.

  • Creators (Imagination, Patterns)

A creator visualizes the whole of a structure. A creator can balance variety (his imagination) and predictability (the patterns). Examples are composers, architects and designers. A creator designs the machines and the products the network is producing.

  • Motivator (Emotions, Imagination)

A motivator visualizes what makes people move forward. Motivators develop concepts.  Many of them operate in the media (actors, writers, poets and movie-directors). Motivators cannot live without variety. Other examples are coaches and psychiatrist. A motivator looks after the long-term perspective of the network by creating and implementing a shared vision.

  • Inventors (Senses, Imagination)

An inventor makes sense of his imagination. Inventors generate ideas and create prototypes (R&D). They use brainstorming tools and analyze trends.

The roles are not evenly distributed in the network. The majority of the people play the role of the producer, the craftsman.

In the current situation, the basic roles are concentrated in specialized corporations (e.g. media, retail, production-plants) or   staff-department of big corporations. Many high talented people are already leaving the big corporations and take part of specialized networks. The amount of one-person-companies is increasing.

People can cooperate with persons that share with them one of their basic cognitive components. An entrepreneur can convince a craftsman what products people he has to sell. They are both practical people (the senses). A creator (e.g. an architect) can show a craftsman what to make. They share a focus on structure (patterns).

When complementary roles are working in a cooperative environment, they join their forces in an open dialogue. This dialogue has many stages ranging from brainstorming (inventors take the lead) to realizing material structures (craftsman work together with creators).

Politicians, entrepreneurs and motivators can only perform if they are able to observe and express emotions (visual expressions, gestures). To ensure a successful cooperation they have to meet. New technologies like video-conferencing make it possible to cooperate anytime, any-place and anywhere. 

To collaborate people have to communicate face to face. In a competition patents (legal actions) and secrecy (rules and walls) shield ideas to prevent the competitor to take the lead.  In cooperation, ideas are shared to sustain the network.

The most used model in communication is the sender/receiver-model.  People send and receive content (e.g. email, documents, pictures, plans, designs) Specialized networks need advanced content-management systems to support this model of communication.

The sender/receiver-model supposes that the brain converts ideas directly into words and that another person can easily draw out the meaning of the ideas from the words. It assumes little effort to understand or interpret what is being conveyed.

The sender/receiver-model only works if there is a high level of common conceptual understanding (a shared model) between all the people involved in the communication process.

In reality, this is mostly not the case especially when experts (inventors, craftsman and creators) are communicating with laymen (entrepreneurs, motivators and politicians).

The dialogue between an expert and a layman is often a monologue. The expert confuses the layman with all his knowledge and the layman is not capable of asking the right questions. In the end, the layman stops asking questions and accepts the situation. 

The sender/receiver-model reduces a specialized network to a production-process. The model lowers the social cohesion (politicians), reduces the external cooperation (entrepreneurs) and removes the long-term perspective of the network (motivators).

People have to invest time to understand (ask unsophisticated questions) and explain their ideas (inventions) in many ways. It also takes time to generate trust. Ideas of others have to be tried out (in the imagination or in the real world) to understand them.

People have to have the opportunity to fail and learn from their mistakes. Sometimes they generate personal inventions that can be given back to the others to create reciprocity.

Eventually ideas create new personal patterns that can be shown and praised by others.  Collaboration does not take place instantly but evolves in a cycle where the pleasure of finding things out is the motivator.

When people are pessimistic and afraid the other becomes the enemy. They shield themselves from the outside world by creating fixed boundaries (walls).

To make sure that they get something in return they use a threat (e.g. physical force, the legal system). Before they start, they have to spend time to prevent a possible conflict (making contracts, detailed specifications). When people trust each other, they cannot wait to start.

The fear of losing something (possessions, status, existence) changes a collaborative relationship into a battle.

In a competition, the focus is on winning and selfishness. Fear has a negative impact on the senses (tunnel view), the emotions (stress) and the imagination (creativity block).

In a competition, priority is given to stay in front and to prohibited possible actions of the enemies. To win one has to predict and control by defining strict rules and make sure that people obey the rules. Internal and external competition finally kills a cooperative relationship.

To prevent the move from cooperation to competition people have to sustain a free and open communicate-process.