We had a lot of questions about work and life and digging through literature we found a few authors that showed us very interesting points of view on the subjects we were exploring. Through their books and articles, they helped us put in words what we were thinking.
We wanted to share part of what has helped us launch this experiment and the reason of its inspiration.
Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies to Build Breakthrough Brands
Psychologism, economism, and engineerism dominate how we think about brands and markets; therefore, they establish how we should operate to build valued brands and products. It is all about promoting associations with concepts, emotions, or something trending; so brands can make them more efficient, better mousetraps as the author calls them.
For Douglas Holt, this way of thinking produces irrelevant results when marketing strategy and innovation are developed.
His thesis: the mentioned "isms" misconceive markets, consumers, and products because they cannot grasp how meaning and culture shape the desires that energize persons. A consumer goes to the market to achieve her identity project and satisfy her ideological needs, which are wants far beyond the abstract and "objective" needs that psychologists, economists, and engineers tend to think giving their methodological commitments and evolutionary understanding of nature human beings.
For Holt, our desires (including brands' desires) are meaningful and arise from social and cultural dynamics that affect large portions of persons and not isolated individuals, the analytical unit of Psychology and Economy.
What explains, then, why brands or products become icons is the cultural innovation they perform, giving subjects new source materials to develop and resolve the ideological and identity tensions they face due to the historical changes in their societies. Thus, good brand managers are sensitive to those historical changes and their expressions in culture, politics, and the arts, not data scientists and practical scientists.
The Craftsman has been core to the Normalem project. It made us think about work while trying to figure out how we feel in our times.
Today a utopia lurks in our culture: machines and computers will work for us and work better. They will produce perfect objects with no mistakes and in more efficient ways. After that, we will be free to spend time cultivating ourselves though meaningful activities.
However, while we seem to be moving closer to this utopia, a "guy with a pipe" says it doesn't seem to be as liberating as we thought. On the contrary, it is just the opposite: we tend to feel empty, lacking character, identity, and realization.
His thesis: maybe we are all wrong about how we conceive the activity of thinking and the meaning of work in human life. To think is to use the body. The body is the one that thinks and not an isolated mind. This misconception allows for an underappreciation of work in general, and specially manual work. Contrary to the preconception of most educated people, manual labor is not void of intellectual activity and meaning. The master craftsman has developed a very acute relationship with nature, things, and his community through his craft, which, in turn, give him self-knowledge of his body, engagement with the world, and meaningful identity.
For Richard Sennet, today's management style, with its orientation to results and dismissal of practical wisdom, makes the situation worse for those who have it. When practical wisdom is relegated, no character and meaning are cultivated. Without practical wisdom, the quality of our work or service diminishes. For example, a doctor tends to refrain from a warm touch and a deep understanding of what is happening to her patient because she feels compelled towards efficient results as demanded by managers, who think they know more. After all, they have the data, and nothing more is required to understand human activity.
Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, democratic action, and the cultivation of solidarity.
Perseverance and continuous performance optimization are today's virtues. Also, to attach to the facts and detach from emotions. If we believe this, we are wrong about ourselves. At least that's what is being proposed by the guys who wrote the book.
The book’s thesis is simple: we are at our best, as human beings, the other way around: detached from facts but attached to bodily involved practical experience.
Real entrepreneurship and meaningful work are not at all about control and going fast, but more about holding on to anomalies and disharmonies we experience in our everyday life practices. This requires a skill that is more like a musician finding a tune, and not an analytical one. It is about becoming more and more sensitive to the world.
Therefore, the exploration of disharmonies is a trip into the unknown, but done through engaged making. The meaning of making is revealed in the new worlds that are disclosed with our activities. A new style of living life appears within them, that starts a new configuration of practices, equipment, and, most importantly, ourselves.
For them, what we consider virtues are, in fact, deceiving us because, as they make us insensitive to the tune the world is sounding, including us as placed within it.
Author Jorge Carrasquel
Explorer at Normalem