Makers, STEAM, and Craft: The Hidden Thread to Look for in Your Business and with Your Vendors

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Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a surge of interest in things one would consider “craft.” For example, there is the culture of the Maker’s Movement, where champions of do-it-yourself projects share projects and tips for just about everything. There is also the rise of STEAM in education, meaning a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (and a natural outgrowth of STEM, which had the four elements minus the addition of art).

And we ourselves have been thinking hard about craftmanship and what it means for fulfillment.

To us, these are not separate threads or interests. They represent a renewed interest—a Renaissance, if you will—in craft and craftsmanship. Different areas of society are tapping into this feeling in different ways, but they all reflect a common interest and, more importantly, a common work ethic.

So, if you feel like you are in a “craft” industry, it might help to get clear on just what this movement is, how it affects your work, and how to find it in the partners and vendors you deal with.

Getting a Handle on Craft

Around the world and across time, every culture has had its craftsmen. More than someone who just produced goods, the craftsman was also a symbol of industry, maturity, and care. Instead of passively consuming products, the craftsman created much of what he or she needed. Instead of letting the world happen, the craftsman helped shape it and influence it, bit by bit.

Of course, the very word “craftsman” conjures an image of a bearded man clad in a leather apron and rolled-up sleeves, toiling away in his workshop to produce beautiful and useful items. This surely is one type of craftsman, but there are others. Men and women, young and old, are today discovering the joys of craft.

And craft is not limited to traditional makers of durable goods, either: Other cultures, like the ancient Greeks, included doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other such professionals under their term for craftsman. Even horse-breeding was considered a craft. Today, we see craft in things like the “Maker Movement”: A culture of independent inventors, designers and tinkerers.There is a Maker magazine (called Make, naturally) as well as hands-on Maker Faires.

These fairs include booths with people showing how to pickle vegetables, make soap, and get started in beekeeping. (There was even a Time magazine article on these fairs, and the movement at large.)

So what makes such diverse professions and interests count as “craft”? In short, it is a particular work ethic. Wherever you find that work ethic, you’ll find someone participating in a craft.

What does that craft work ethic consist of?

The Work Ethic of Craftsmanship

The craft work ethic is an attitude and an identity, undergoing a revival in a marketplace numbed by generic, mass-produced merchandise. It is difficult to pin down, but there seem to be five strains to it:

  • Doing Things Well for the Sake of Doing Them Well. Not for pure profit, not to hit production goals—a true craftsman works simply to create something of quality. If it takes more time, more effort, or more resources to make something right, it’s worth it.
  • Attention to Detail. A big part of doing things well is paying attention to the little things. Small problems are still problems—and they have a way of growing and expanding if not dealt with promptly.
  • A Balance Between Plans and Flexibility. A person involved in a craft definitely plans: He or she envisions, sketches, measures, and measures again. But this planning is balanced with flexibility. Craft means the ability to adaptively respond to contingencies when they arise, along with the freedom to try new things when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Less Ego in the Work. A craftsman really does learn to let go of ego. That’s how he or she learns: By taking feedback and criticism and using it to create something better next time. The final impression is much more important than the maker’s ego.
  • Learning Through Experience. Talk to even the most master craftsman, and he or she will admit that they have much to learn. Learning is ongoing and done without ego (see above). It also relies on trying things for yourself—theory is nice, but most learning is done in practice.

So What Does Craft Have to Do With Your Vendors?

We here at Copper Peak Logistics have been thinking a lot about that question lately, and ones surrounding it. Are we doing our fulfillment with true craftsmanship? (I think we are.) Are we serving our vendors who are dedicated to their craft? Are our vendors as into craftsmanship as we are?

We invite you, the reader, to join us in the exercise. Take a look at your vendors and ask yourself:

  • Does my vendor seem to worry about maximizing their profit or efficiency? Or do they bend over backwards to get the product or service “just right”?
  • Does my vendor proactively try to prevent problems, even small ones? Do they ask a lot of questions? Do they try getting to know all aspects of my business?
  • Has my vendor shown that they can adaptively respond to my needs, issues, and changes? Are they sensitive to changes in the market? Do they pair their planning with contingency planning?
  • Do the people at my vendors’ company get defensive if there’s a problem? Are they pushy about selling their products or services? Do they talk about themselves all the time, or do they listen more?
  • Is my vendor willing to try new things and learn from them? Do they come to me with ideas, or is it all just transactional after the agreement is signed?

Chances are, very few of your vendors are truly craftsmen. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, you might be disappointed if you expect craftsmanship-level service from an organization that does not cherish this work ethic to begin with.

At Copper Peak Logistics, we strive to provide craftsmanship fulfillment for the wine industry and any industry that appreciates craft in their work. Contact us to find out more.