Job Characteristics Theory is a work design theory providing a set of implementing principles for enriching jobs.  Surely we could apply some of these ideas to evaluate and monitor how we work in our own Textile Art practice because this theory makes a lot of sense to me.

Devised by Greg Oldham and J. Richard Hackman way back in 1980, the theory focused on core characteristics leading to favourable personal and work outcomes, boosting motivation.

So let’s go through the characteristics and the benefits – they’re worth thinking about.

  • Skill Variety – we have to hone and develop a set of skills and talents to produce technically proficient work creating a sense of meaningfulness and craftsmanship in what we can achieve, but also boosting our problem-solving and thinking-outside-the-square abilities.
  • Task Identity – we’re involved in the entire process from concept, to design to fully resolved artwork, leading to a sense of self-satisfaction, meaningfulness and responsibility.  It’s all our own work after all.
  • Task Significance – many work to exhibit or sell their work, but regardless of this, work is being created with an end purpose in mind, building a bridge between what we make and the end-use (made-for-purpose) or user.
  • Autonomy – this is the best one by far.  Our work provides us with the freedom and independence to direct and plan our work, as well as design the procedures to facilitate this, so we’re involving initiative and decision making, as well as personal responsibility for success or failure.
  • Feedback – most of us don’t receive feedback, or do we?  Recognition of success can be monitored by self-satisfaction and successful outcomes in exhibitions and competitions – after all, they’re usually judged by our peers, but there’s also the success of someone buying the work you’ve created.  That’s all valuable and telling feedback.

So there’s merit in understanding this decades-old work theory for our modern-day art practice and by doing so, we’re actually developing the concepts for what really matters in our work – meaningfulness as an artist and creator, responsibility for our own success or failure as well as expanding our knowledge into how we each perform to our best.

From theory to practice – personal accomplishment along with ongoing learning and skill development leads to increased motivation and job satisfaction.

That’s just common sense.

cathy jack coupland