Without artisans, tools are worthless

Tools in the hands of artisans[NOTE: I’ve been struggling with the title on this one for three days. And, while I can’t quite capture the idea in the headline, I still feel that this is imperative to get off of my proverbial chest.]

People are quite protective of their “tools.”

Oooh. Tools. They’re oh-so-valuable. Lah-di-dah.

Their software. Their methodology. Their ways of doing things. Little flowcharts. Templates. Processes. Scorecards. Whatever.

The perceived value of these tools is huge.

But what about the actual value?

I’d say that there isn’t much value in the tool, at all.

In fact, I’d be willing to argue that the vast majority of these so-called “tools” out there should be bordering on free. Given away. Put into the public domain.

Why? Because more times than not, the tool, itself, has little intrinsic value.

(Yes, yes, contrarian. You are absolutely right. Every once in a great while someone somewhere creates some tool that makes things easier, or that makes things more intelligible, or that makes things more convenient. Yes, yes. There is, in fact, value there. But, I would argue that, more often than not, that valuable tool is a tool informed by the intelligence of how people have used it or its predecessors. Could we get back to my rant now? Thank you.)

In reality, a tool only becomes valuable by being a tool. By becoming something more in the hands of an artisan to manipulate it.

Not to get all Zen, but the existence as a tool, per se, has relatively little value. It’s true value is achieved in reaching its “toolness” through use.

The tool, itself, isn’t valuable. The means of manipulating the tool–intelligently–is.

You can apply this to practically any tool.

Is Excel intrinsically valuable? If it is, then why does Toby get so much more value out of it than I?

Because he knows how to use it intelligently. And he knows how to manipulate it.

What about RSS Feed readers? I mean, am I going to catch as much cutting-edge breaking news as Marshall Kirkpatrick because he and I happen to use the same feed reader?

Absolutely not. Because he knows how to use that tool more intelligently than I.

What about PowerPoint?

Ah ha! I think I saw that light bulb come on.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. This is a continuation of the common sense thread.

You see, you get so used to doing what you do with any tool–you become such an artisan–that it seems second nature.

“Everybody must do it this way,” you say. “It’s common sense. I’m not doing anything special.”

But you see, you are.

The tool, itself, is practically worthless. Without someone to use it.

And once that symbiotic relationship is established, it’s important to keep that in mind.

You make those tools valuable. You make them work. And with them, you work magic.

And your rates and salary should be based on the skills you, as an artisan, bring to the table.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Artisan, Career, Experience, Tools, Value. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Without artisans, tools are worthless

  1. Tim says:

    Programming is really nothing more than copy and paste. You either regurgitate syntax you find on a website, or at a rudimentary level, from syntax you’ve typed thousands of times.

    I suppose an argument could be made for natural language, as well.

  2. Pingback: Random Stew

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