UCL School of Management

10 May 2021

Is skilled craftsmanship the key to mass unemployment?

Woman crafting a clay mug

Craftsmanship requires a distinct skillset and relies on human judgement and creativity, which cannot be replicated on a mass, automated scale. Cited in The Economist, a recent study by leading academics, including UCL School of Management’s Davide Ravasi, examines the discipline of the crafts as a way of remaking the organisation of work.  

The authors identify that the concept of the crafts contradicts the traditional management ethos, which prioritises efficiency and consistency. However, a shift in societal attitudes has created two new markets for handcrafted goods, creating a need for more skilled workers. Consumers have become more environmentally conscious and seek to upcycle their current goods and simultaneously support small local businesses, rather than large organisations with a less sustainable ethos.

As mass automation stretches into most aspects of daily life, consumers now seek individuality and niche products, and a second market has emerged comprised of those who are willing to pay premium prices for products that are not mass-produced.

The study explores the concept of agile working to bring together experts from different teams to improve creativity and assign repetitive and dull tasks to machine automation to help craft workers thrive in the modern era. The article suggests the key to the success of craftsmanship lies in the ability to retain the balance of human and automated working.

Read more (subscription required)

Last updated Monday, 10 May 2021