How to Be Practical at Work
Adopt a brewer’s mind.
It’s no surprise that computers are substituting a lot of human work and doing it with more precision and efficiency. And yet, we Sapiens want to become more productive and efficient. What exactly does it mean to be productive? Could my productivity be automated by a machine? For the first time in humanity, we’re facing this dilemma. While there’s much work to be done, and productivity is still of utmost importance, having a brewer’s mind offers some valuable insight and an alternative to blind optimization. For instance, in chess, computers have surpassed the strongest chess player in the world. Although humans have benefited a lot from chess computers, we no longer arrange human vs machine chess matches because we humans would never win.
Today manual work is quickly being replaced. Tomorrow it might be creative, more specialized work as well. When all things electronic are consistently and exponentially becoming more efficient and productive, what should we focus on learning and doing? While there’s much work to be done, adopting a brewer’s mind has an alternative. A brewer’s mind is practical, leverages time, and focuses on a story. The point is, you want to be concrete. Concreteness consists of the gathering of available raw materials, tools, and a clear path to action driven by human connection. Let’s explore how to be practical at work:
All things electronic may be really efficient, but a brewer is practical. A human can assess current resources, physically obtain what’s needed, and navigate in the marketplace. We need to start by asking what it is that we need. A beer brewer gathers the essential ingredients such as the grains, hops, yeast, water, and perhaps some fruit, spice or empty oak barrels. Being practical is not planning. Being practical is preparing. And preparing is active. Preparing means you get what you need to create something. A brewer’s mind “shrinks the change” by obtaining what it needs to work.
Adopt a brewer’s mind and continually ask: What can I create with what I have? Where am I now and how can I move forward? Exercising a brewer’s mind is about becoming more concrete. You become more concrete if you use all your senses, like the brewer is able to touch the grains and smell the hops. The brewer actively prepares by acquiring such ingredients and leveraging tools. With a brewer’s mind you focus on the concrete—like the pint that needs to be held, and the person that will drink it. Instead of ambiguous mission statements, you can become more practical if you focus on how you will go concretely from ingredients to the desired beer.
The brewing process in a nutshell is essentially about converting starches into sugar, extracting those sugars, boiling them, adding bitterness (hops), cooling it, and adding the yeast that will turn those sugars into alcohol. Your ideas and projects, like excellent beer, need the clarity of what you hope to extract, and how you wish to ferment those ideas into something of value.
Practice a brewer’s mind by thinking in terms of extraction. Rather than being pushed to be more efficient, the brewer recognizes time as a valuable asset. In time, ideas brew and ferment into valuable insights. In idea brewing, you don’t wait for inspiration to strike, you do raw work, you test, and you let ideas steep. Then you tweak the ingredients and try again. You don’t need to get it right the first time. It’s not about efficiency. It’s about mashing ideas again and again. And learning how to filter out when you spot a good one.
A brewer’s mind is pragmatic. It favors action and process. Of course, you may find a great recipe and work to standardize it and produce more, but that’s not adopting a brewer’s mind. Humans love novelty. Micro, nano, and artisan breweries are thriving today because of their creative beers.
The brewer’s mind has a story to tell. Not the superficial or manipulative marketing, but rather the human connection. You must package what you do in a way that represents what your product or service stands for. Tell a story. Humans will continue to care who made it, what ingredients were used, and where it was produced. Producing something that is sustainable, local, healthy, and fair is uniquely human. A brewer’s mind is driven by this whole package (or expression of human value), and designs the product around it. From the label to the website, the brewer makes sure to communicate what the product stands for.
Finally, a brewer can always change his/her mind. Because when you brew, you’re always tweaking the ingredients. It’s like the dance between doing and knowledge, but with ingredients and process. When practicing a brewer’s mind, keep an eye out for the story—or the connection your work has or could have with people. How much you care to make a connection is the gap between brewing and sipping. Make it more physical and concrete, and less abstract and electronic. In a world too focused on efficiency, strive for practical work, embrace the slower process that anything creative requires, and leverage time to age your ideas like a fine beer. (Always drink responsibly.)
Juan F. Diaz
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