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Monday, December 3, 2012

The Artist

As a young boy I lived with my family in Cuba, where my father was stationed. We lived in a village near the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and I played with the neighborhood kids or fished off the back deck of the house (when I wasn't in school).

I have a vivid memory of a street vendor, wheeling a rickety cart down the dirt streets each day selling oranges. To a young child's eyes, these oranges were huge (so sweet you had to smile while eating them), and the vendor would peel it for a buyer. He was full of fun, jokes, and laughter as he made his way down the dusty street, clearly enjoying life, his customers, and followers (us kids).

What I remember most was him peeling the orange – he had an old kitchen knife, sharpened so much that the cutting edge of the blade was curved like a replica of Guantanamo Bay – but sharp as all get-out!

He started at the top of the orange and create a single 'rope' of peel precisely a quarter of an inch by a quarter of an inch – it would cascade down in curlycues from the orange at almost blinding speed. Perfect every time. One long peel every time. A peel-rope with ¼ x ¼ dimensions every time.

We kids would follow him for a while, begging for the peel and playing with it until we only had a handful of pieces left...and then we'd beg for another one from the orange vendor.

As an adult, I look back to that experience fondly, realizing that I was seeing an artist at work. He chose to spend his time enjoying those around him and chose to create and meet the challenge of peeling the orange in a distinctive and incredibly difficult way – drawing satisfaction from his creation. I realize now that I was in the presence of a true master – an artist creating a unique experience for the buyer (or the kids following him around).

Illustration of the orange vendor at work today – the 'bagger' at the Costco checkout who engineers a precisely packed cart.

I think about the expressed desire by many in business and public service to have the higher-ups create a challenging and rewarding role for them – and wonder if the manuals, regulations, and procedures we've put in place have extinguished the 'artist' in each of us? 
Please join us at the Capital Technology Management Hub on December 11 at 6:30 for 300 seconds of Rainmaker 17 – Breaking The Invisible Wall, What we learned at last month’s GMU Annual Startup Challenge Competition at TeqCorner, followed by Joshua Green explaining Cleantech OpenThe World’s Largest Cleantech Accelerator -Funding Green Technology Startups


Thoughthebrowser said...

I think you are on to something.

Manuals, training, and expectation come from the people who make the product, not the people who use the product.

Usually there is not much reason for a gifted user to share their best practices.

THAT would really be worth creating!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your comment, Dick.

The users may not take time to write out their best practices, but when they contact the company, would it take too much time to ask how they like the product and what's the best thing they've found in using it?

Collect and share the tips, correct the complaints, refine the next version of the product - and you've got a true winner on your hands.