The hand, heart and mind of a craftsman

The hand, heart and mind of a craftsman

We take pride in what we create. It takes hand, heart and mind to achieve true craftsmanship. But what does that mean? At Nascom we believe in the strength of our T-shaped experts, our so-called hedgefoxes.

The tale of the fox and the hedgehog

Last week we told you about ‘pair programming’ at Nascom, one of our co-creating techniques. But we also stressed the importance of ‘me-time’. We’re all experts in our own way, but that’s not something we’re born with.

Have you ever heard about the tale of the hedgehog and the cat? Maybe you’ve heard about the hedgehog and the fox? It's an essay written by Isaiah Berlin. Both stories boil down to the same thing. The hedgehog is very good at one thing and one thing only. His flaw is that he’s incapable of seeing things outside of the box. The fox knows a little bit about many things but isn’t really good at one thing.

If we were to take the hedgehog (who is good at one thing) and make him a bit foxier, he becomes a true expert: a hedgefox. That’s exactly our aim here at Nascom. Our experts are all true hedgefoxes. Some start out being a fox, others start out as a hedgehog, but the ultimate goal is have a ‘pack’ of hedgefoxes.


On becoming a hedgefox

'Are you an expert?' Hard question to answer, isn’t it? Well, we’ve asked two of our in-house experts. Bjorn Sleypen, a service designer/table tennis expert and Karel Bemelmans, a Drupal/ Symfony developer. They both took a deep sigh and after a slight hesitation answered: “Yes, I am an expert."

“I’ve got so many years of experience in so many work fields. And that’s what gives me this broad perspective of what works and what doesn’t.”

That’s one of the key elements you need if you want to become a hedgefox: experience. Go on and type the term ‘Project manager’ into Google; a gazillion books will show up. Everyone has their own fixed idea on ‘how to become a PM’. But you don’t become an expert simply by reading books. Try and apply for a job where all you can say is: I’ve read this, this and this book. What does that say about you? That you’re a quick reader? Perhaps. But it doesn’t say anything about your 'soft skills'. It’s all in the experience. Although Lady Gaga made a song about it: no, you’re not born this way.

“You’re not born a hedgefox, you grow into being one.” Karel Bemelmans

Tell, show and involve me in the pool of knowlegde

We strive to create true craftsmen at Nascom. One of the ways to do that, is by telling them: 'moeit u'. There is no English phrase that fully grasps the idea behind 'moeit u'.  It literally translates into 'get involved', but its exact meaning gets lost in translation. It means that, even though your expertise might not be necessary until the end of a project, you still need to follow it from the start. An example: a designer makes a killer design, but it a developer doesn't have a look at its technical feasibility, your end product simply won't work. 

That's why we tell all our hedgefoxes to be a part of every step in the process. If everyone gets involved right from the beginning, we can all stand proudly behind the finished project in the end. This inevitably entails learning from each other as we go along, because getting involved also means two-way communication. Another crucial element in our co-creative environment. 

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll learn." Chinese proverb

When a new employee enters our pool of knowledge, he often is a hedgehog. But then he starts getting a little foxier and expands his horizons. This takes some time, though.  Gladwell wrote that it takes about 10,000 hours of work to become good at something. That doesn’t mean that you were doing everything right all those hours. But that doesn’t matter; it's trial and error that helps you to become good at something. 

“In order to see the bigger picture, you need to see the details.Your broad knowledge allows you to dig deeper into a project.” Bjorn Sleypen

We live and work in a co-creative environment. But this time it required some logistic changes at Nascom. Curious about what’s changed? Stay tuned for our blog next week.