Amateur vs Professional

Posted by  admin —January 12, 2009
Filed in Just observations, Yes!And Improv

I love this post by Chris Anderson over at The Long Tail.

Who would you choose to read … a passionate amateur or a professional doing his/her thing? Chris says that in a world where we all have equal access to tools of production …

“Amateurs self-select for the job. Professionals are selected. For most jobs, volunteers beat draftees.”

Chris goes on to say …

“To me that’s the difference between amateur and professional content: the first may not be polished, but it’s driven by the sort of intense interest that cannot be faked. The second may be better written, spelled more correctly and otherwise competently produced, but all too often it has the arms-length perspective of a drive-by.”

I wonder how the same applies to other walks of life and professions? Viv McWaters has described herself as an ‘all rounder’ in the past … someone who can do many things well (facilitate, evaluate, train). But I think it goes deeper than simply being a proficient all-rounder and Chris has nailed it with 1 word … “passion”.

Recently, I was employed to do a Graphic Facilitation job. As I leapt at the job with all the enthusiasm and excitement of a 6 year old on his birthday, I paused for a moment and these words entered my head …

“BUT Geoff, you are not a professional artist. Are you sure you can do this?”

No. I am not a professional artist or a widely experienced graphic facilitator AND my response to that little voice inside my head was …

“Yes! Let’s do this. It’s new and it will extend me. You know you can draw complex concepts and bring them alive!”

So, I had the ‘P’ word going … but passion alone is not enough to do a great job. The ‘R’ word is missing. Like in Open Space Technology the equation goes something like this …

OS = P x R : where P = passion & R = Responsibility

Passion without responsibility is just … well it’s just all hot air. Responsibility without passion is, in part, what Chris is on about.

Open Space Drawing by me 🙂

In sum … we need both (all 3 in fact)

  1. Passion – “I’ll take a passionate amateur over a bored professional any day” Chris Anderson
  2. Responsibility – “Passion gets you out of your chair, responsibility moves you to action. Things only get done by individuals, and nothing gets done unless people want to do. Passion is great, but goes nowhere until the feet take it somewhere” OS World website
  3. The Tools of Production – from Chris’ post I’d interpret these as the ‘ways & wares’ of getting things done


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