Entrepreneurialism In The Workplace

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/20/2010

There are two types of work in the daily-grind. The first is the well-known duties required to keep existing processes running smoothly. Route, formulaic behaviors characterize this type of work, and is the domain of the uncreative and secure. Craftsmanship may exist here, and even artistry and genius. But it is rare, and principally confined to the perfection of a craft. Where it is concerned with the actual elevation of the craft, it blends into the second type of work.

The second type of work that can fill in the daily grind is constantly inventive and challenging. You are dealing with unknowns that can’t just be researched and solved patterned after the successes of those who have gone before. My field of search engine optimization is full of this, since search is new, changing, and designed to not be directly influenced. The burden of creating those new success-patterns lies on your head. You can’t be specifically taught how to solve challenges in this realm of work, but rather must struggle to find abstractions that generally apply, and hope that it puts you in a nice prepared state for the changes coming down the pike.

The second category of work is mentally exhausting and risky. It is often the domain of scientists and artists, but also can be an inspired craftsman. Success is not certain. You are in unknown territory to humanity at large. Groundbreaking work is risky because the chances are slim for making breakthroughs that are unique and popular enough to compensate for the required dedication. This is especially true if you’re not actually an artist or scientist, but rather are trying to elevate your craft.

In my experience, people who live in that first category of workers (formulaic) sometimes like to think of themselves in the second category (artistic), due to the adrenalin rush they get from occasionally playing around at the edges–never actually perfecting nor elevating their craft. This is my greatest fear regarding myself professionally. Given even the slightest bit of pause, it’s easy to settle down from artistic to formulaic. And while I love the value of skilled craftsmen–I don’t want to be one. When you settle in too much, you start to become fearful of change, knowing it will be disruptive to your comfort as the expert in your craft. Change threatens the livelihood of craftsmen, but only energizes artists.

Occasionally the domain of the craftsman and the artist overlap, and conflict can ensue. Jealously is inevitable, and the craftsman accuses the artist of being a hack, and the artists has to deal with politics. And so, someone who is elevating their craft with craftsmen around is well advised to do so in mysterious, subtle ways, sinking strong foundations into the ground that are difficult for opponents to uproot during confrontations. Work in a non-threatening “Lieutenant Columbo” way.

If knives ever come flying against your back, be above even noticing them, and turn around with a.. “Oh, and one more thing…” routine—delivering an prepared demonstration that lays bare the undeniable truth. If your bosses recognize that truth and protect, empower, nurture and foster you in your endeavors, then you have an enlightened employer. If not, then go the entrepreneurial route on your own.