Monday, June 14, 2010

Unpopular Virtues: Responsibility

Making Monday

Another reason makers are rare is because, unlike the great majority of people, they are willing to take responsibility at least for some things.

An act of making takes some existing thing and transforms it into something new. But not all transformative acts are acts of making. For example, smashing something transforms it into debris--not something we would call making (unless you wanted to be clever and say you're making a mess).

Making involves both intention and design. I once heard someone characterize construction as "systematic opposition to gravity." Design is about structure, patterns, and distinctions. It is, fundamentally about taking responsibility for the outcome.

Makers ask themselves, "What do I have to do to produce the result?" They know that no amount of wishful thinking or persuading others to believe will transform the raw material into the finished product. Like the story of the little red hen, everyone might agree that it's a nice idea but it won't happen until someone takes the responsibility to do it.

Users avoid responsibility because it makes it much more difficult for them to justify themselves. If a user can get someone else to take the responsibility, the user is free either to claim credit for success or to place blame for failure.

This is why, in a world of users, it is far riskier to be a maker. This is why making is fundamentally an act of courage.

 Image: Bill Longshaw /

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