Whether you are an artist, a designer, an engineer, a scientist or any sort of developer you work in a field that creates new things. The act of creation requires imagination and skill. It requires art and craft.
Craft is the domain of skill. In photography, it’s the domain of knowing what F-Stops are, what lens speed means or what the right colour temperature is required. In design, it’s knowing how to use photoshop or illustrator to create graphics. Craft is important – it provides you with all the underlying tools to do a job. But, craft is not enough.
Art is the domain of the imagination. It’s where insight lives. It’s the difference between a masterpiece and the average. Artists know about composition, balance, unity and flow. They know how to tell great stories and can figure out where to focus attention. It’s what helped Newton figure out gravity. Of course everyone knew things fell to earth, so what?
In the world of product development, you need both art and craft. Knowing how to run great experiments requires understanding assumptions, hypotheses and data collection. It requires you to know how to set control conditions. This is all craft. The really challenging aspect is to figure out what makes the best experiment. Where should you focus next? What do you really need to know? What do you really need to explain to others? These concepts are inextricably linked. Craft can be learned over time with study. Art comes more with practice and feedback.
When it comes to running experiments for making improvements to how you work or what you’re working on, are you comfortable with how to structure great experiments? If not, where are you weaker: art or craft?