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An artisan is therefore a person engaged in or occupied by the practice of a craft, who may through experience and talent reach the expressive levels of an artist using his hands, mind and heart in his work and what he or she creates …


The adjective "artisanal" is sometimes used in describing hand-processing in what is usually viewed as an industrial process, such as in the phrase "artisanal mining." Thus, artisanal is sometimes used in marketing and advertising as a buzz word to describe or imply some relation with the crafting of handmade food products, such as bread, beverages or cheese. Many of these have traditionally been handmade, rural or pastoral goods but are also now commonly made on a larger scale with automated mechanization in factories and other industrial areas. (Wikipedia.)

Alex Taylor III’s article in the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune was titled: “They’re Calling Subarus the Best Cars Money Can Buy: The Latest Models are winning the Highest Marks for Quality and Safety. Here’s How the Tiny, Quirky, “Artisanal” Carmaker does it.

“By the usual measurements, Subaru should be no more than an afterthought in the U.S. car market. It sells just seven car and crossover models and accounts for a slim 2.3% of U.S. auto sales. By itself, the Toyota Camry outsells the entire Subaru lineup…Yet Subaru has racked up more endorsements by independent arbiters of automotive quality and safety than just about any other manufacturer. Consumer Reports rates Subaru above Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and every other manufacturer in performance, comfort, utility, and reliability, and says the company makes the best cars in America… And after crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made Subaru a "top safety pick" across its entire product line, a distinction no other manufacturer can claim.”

Wait a minute! What does artisanal have to do with grant writer? Everything. Think David and Goliath. Think University of California versus a local community college. How can you outgun major research institutions that have research star power and Nobel laureates? Maybe defining your niche as an artisanal institution will create a special cache. I have had to do this on numerous occasions when competing with R-1 research institutions for grant funding. As a grants person for a community college, I have discovered that my institution has artisanal characteristics that funders can find endearing. I play on those strengths in crafting our proposal’s uniqueness and innovativeness. It is something to differentiate us from the rest of the competitive pack.

Let’s look at another example from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Might makes right.” The popular aphorism has been around for centuries. It’s been applied to everything from one nation conquering another to the National Football League. It’s also been applied to automotive engineering—the idea that bigger and heavier is associated with all sorts of desirable qualities, such as safety, strength and durability.

Witness Volkswagen’s “Door Thunk” commercial for the 2012 Jetta. The narrator intones, “The solid thunk of the door on the Jetta: Another example of Volkswagen quality. That’s the power of German engineering."

Watch this video at YouTube.

But now, ultralight, ultrastrong materials—alternatives to traditional steel—offer the promise of an entirely different scenario. What if we replaced that heavy car door—and its “thunk”—with a superlightweight, superstrong door … One that effortlessly swings closed and shuts with nothing but a light click? What if light makes right?

It’s really about ‘flipping’ existing ideas into new creative solutions for your grant proposal. The tried and true no longer always ring true for the 21st century.

As Dustin Hoffman, portraying Benjamin Braddock, in the 1967 movie, The Graduate, was told by Mr. McGuire, "Just one word: Plastics.”

Watch this video at YouTube.

So I leave you with one word, “Composites.”

Stretch beyond the box, and be artisanal and forward looking in crafting your proposal.<>