What Ever Happened to Pride of Work?

Last week Ken Grier, Creative Director for The Macallan Scotch Whisky and I debated why it’s hard to get traction with MEANINGFULLY UNIQUE ideas.  It was the kind of classic debate that we’ve had for over 17 years.  It was the kind of debate that is common among people who “give a Sh#T” about the quality of their ideas, understanding and work. 

We debated fear of failing.  We debated lack of resources.  We debated pressure to deliver short term profits.   We kept digging till we discovered what might well be the “root cause” of innovation friction within organizations. 

Quite simply - “Pride of Work” has been replace with “just get the job done.”     

As established organizations focus on "task completion" and cost cutting - it's ignited the birth of  the  “craft” movement.  Craft is exploding everywhere - from distilleries to breweries to farm to table restaurants to meaningfully unique tools and toys.  When visiting a new city - it’s becoming commonplace to search for real craft experiences.   

What separates craft from mass is pride of work. 

Leading a team of young people, in the the crafting of Innovation Engineering courses and tools and the start up of our Brain Brew craft distillery,  has given me first person understanding of the new way of business.  At it’s core it’s about “pride of work.”   We aren’t just doing our job.  We are creating whiskey, classes and internet tools that we are deeply proud of.  We sweat details that our competitors ignore.

Steve Jobs success with Apple and Pixar is due in large part to his commitment to maintaininga craft mindset despite being one of the largest companies in the world.   His biographer, Walter Isaacson,  told CBS News that Jobs learned this from his adopted father Paul Jobs.  ”Once they were building a fence.  And he said, 'You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect.’”   

Jobs explained in his biography his father’s passion for craftsmanship. “He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”  He said that his father refused to use poor wood for the back of cabinets, or to build a fence that wasn’t constructed as well on the back side as it was the front. Jobs likened it to using a piece of plywood on the back of a beautiful chest of drawers. “For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

I believe that the source of much of the mixed feelings towards Steve Jobs is his craftsmanship mindset.  To those who get craftsmanship - fanatical passion is just part of the process.  To those who are practical and prudent it’s craziness. 

“Pride of Work” was a very important concept for Dr. Deming.  He was once asked, how he would summarize his overall message in a few words.

 "I'm not sure, but it would have something to do with variation."  Later he said, "I said earlier that my message, had to do with variation. I've given it some more thought, and I would say it has to do with Pride of Work.”

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

The Innovation Engineering Pioneers believe that the best way of enabling pride of work is by doing “Cool S&!T that Matters!”


Ken Grier was so taken by the conversation he sent me this email shortly after discussing Pride of Work.   What’s particularly interesting is that his piece was written separately from my blog.  With his permission I post it below - enjoy!

It takes very little more effort to do something right than it does just to do it. 

At Bentley Motors one of the most important tools used in the crafting of their luxury cars is a humble dining fork.  It’s used to make almost imperceptible marks on the leather used to make their steering wheels -  so that the spacing is perfect before stitching. 

Every Bentley car has wood trim taken from just one tree to ensure consistency. You can even have them hand build you a car. That’s real pride in a job well done.

Some folks talk about innovation being constrained by the worker’s fear of failure; laziness; or short term targets driven by greed. The cause for this runs deeper. We have lost the joy of work for work’s sake. 

W. Edwards Deming summed it up when he said “All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride”

The best example of this was Steve Jobs. He could have launched the IPhone with a metal bezel. Easy, quick and undifferentiated. Instead he chose the hard route; to break the mould with the first gorilla glass touch screen. By doing so he built the foundations for the success Apple has become. It takes character; courage; resolve and sheer persistence but as Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart you’ll know when you find it.”

So, tomorrow just swing the bat. Do it for you. Have a go.  Don’t make excuses, because ultimately the only person that will know if it’s great work or not is you.