Two topics Aesthetics and org design – I’ll share a little from my journey on this subject and probably leave you with more questions than answers but hopefully having enjoyed the journey. For design thinking there’s a lot out there about what and how and I’ll share what I find most interesting and useful to me as a consultant. Maybe you’ll find some of this interesting and want to talk more following the call.
One of the fun things about volunteering for a call like this … This is my disclaimer – talking about design aesthetics and design thinking remains an interesting and untestable idea, yet that does not make such talking worthwhile.
A little more about me and my interest in today’s topics. RN – USN – saw beautiful orgs twice. Neither had anything to the boxes on the org chart. Some early design experiences. Develop the preliminary design for a new frigate. Lots of fun. Then saw what I was trying to think when I went aboard a new RN frigate. What was the neatest part of the RN design? The help and lee helm were in the bowels of the ship. Less was more. Then many years latter at TDOT I was the org change and org deign lead on a BPR project on the orgs core process. Ever been to Nashville? Three interstates. Ugly. Asked my civil engineering project team lead if civil engineers received any training in aesthetics – one professor, but not of interest to most. Later I found Japanese design to be of interest as I was also learning about genetics and complex adaptive systems. And I continue to search for ways to weave these streams of thought together, thinking there is some underlying abstraction for all of these areas.
Tim Brown – IDEO - Nice blog entry and thought provoking comments. The underlying issue here is that we are lacking an agreed visual representation of organizations and business model that would allow us to use aesthetic rules to evaluate them Here are a few ideas from the article and comments. Sports metaphor. Beauty of x’s and o’s. Not so much how the offense and defense line up. The beauty emerges in the dynamics the flow from the interplay of the x’s and o’s. Something like seeing org charts and strategic plans, and business processes coming to life – that’s when the beauty emerges. Org beauty is not so much in how an org looks but how it feels: pulsating, vibrant rich nurturing enabling receptive …
Architect point of view
I am more strongly convinced that organizations should be guided by the principles of nature rather than those of machines . Organizations are living things. This isn’t a metaphor. It is the way it is. Acceptance of this self-evident fact represents a huge step for corporate leaders – one that most have not made. Mental models that affect our designing of organizations – engineering machine model/complex adaptive system model/hybrid model/other model(s)? Chris Argyris and double loop learning – governing variables/mental models/assumptions/paradigms.
Thinking (and doing) like an architect. How to see and think about organizations as a whole – like architects do – from the whole to the parts and most importantly how the parts relate to each other. What can our software architects teach us about organization design? The wing exhibits strong quality attributes: lightness in weight, aerodynamic sophistication, outstanding thermal protection. The wing’s reliability, cycling through millions of beats, is unparalleled. Unlike a house, which mostly just sits there, the essence of a wing is in its dynamic behavior. In coarse terms, the wing extends, flaps, and retracts; in finer terms, the bird commands movements almost too subtle to see, controlling pitch, roll, and yaw with exquisite finesse. For millennia, humans have tried to comprehend the wing by examining its parts and from different points of view. But the whole wing is much more than the sum of its elements and structures: It is in the whole that beauty and grace emerge alongside breathtaking performance. Structure, substructure, replication with variation, dynamic behavior , critical quality attributes, and emergent properties of the entire system : All these aspects are important to capture when documenting a software architecture. We haven’t learned how to document beauty and grace yet, but for that we substitute the documentation of what the designer had in mind . For software, we can do this . For the wing of a bird, we can only admire the result . John: What is the significance of the bird’s wing on the cover of this book? Paul: When people talk about architecture, they typically use a metaphor of building architecture, rooms and hallways. I think physiological systems are a much better metaphor for systems and software architectures. Buildings certainly have architectures, but buildings, for the most part, just sit there and don’t do anything . In a bird’s wing, there are bone structures, nerve structures, circulatory structures, and so on. Feathers are replicated complex substructures, but no two are exactly alike. You build a lot of systems that way. What’s fantastic about a bird’s wing is that when you put all those structures together you get astonishing behavior with incredible quality attributes . http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1629149&ns=20022&WT.mc_id=2010-09-26_NL_InformITContent
Marissa Mayer - Vice President, Search Products & User Experience, Go
When most people think of good design in their everyday lives, they invariably consider aesthetics as well as functional performance. Although we often are forced into trade-offs, most of us would rather have the best of both worlds. In organization design, aesthetic considerations include clarity and simplicity, recognizable repeating patterns, and graceful harmony among design elements.
From the world of cybernetic and complex adaptive systems - Are aesthetics an emergent property of a system or are they something that can/should be designed? What can we in org design learn from the Santa Fe University? They are finding underlying structures across disciplines and do these apply to org structure and corresponding org behavior dynamics? Yet when leadership is at its best we witness a special kind of beauty , sometimes earthy, sometimes elegant, but in its own way, esthetically powerful.
What are the aesthetics of an organization’s design? Can/should an organization designer focus only on function and form or can he/she also focus on aesthetics? All designs have users. Who are the users of organizational design? Social engineering vs. organizational development?
Richard Farson: “How can I design our organization so that it more closely coincides with the actual patterns of interpersonal trust that exist?”
Which class would you like to be in? Is your client like mine?
Find the Bright Spots
Not so much a bunch of new ideas and tools but a reminder to use what we know
Walking in our clients’ shoes? Virtual teams and virtual shoes?
Always a fan of the ultimate left hander
Which Design Works? Rational or Emotional? Design for emotion (some of the time) – Have you read an IBM proposal lately – where’s the humanity? Or is that the idea?
WSC Pessimism leads to weakness; optimism to power – William James You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty - Mohandas Gandhi
INFPers – Optimistic by nature
Prototyping Iterative and incremental design and development High risk early
Which one would you join? Your client? Your kid?
Identify constraints and create best solutions within constraints Experiment and try new approaches Ask many questions to find the right question – which will lead to the right answer Sketch ideas Jane McGonigal – Institute for the future – PhD http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html
7Organizations areliving things.This isn’t ametaphor.It is the way it is.Richard Tanner Pascale
8For millennia, humans have tried to comprehend the wing byexamining its parts and from different points of view.But the whole wing is much more than the sum of its elements andstructures: It is in the whole that beauty and grace emergealongside breathtaking performance.Paul Clements and Others – Documenting Software Architecture
9Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing withthe nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with thecreation and appreciation of beauty.Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and ofperceiving the world.SeeDo Think
14OrganizationDesignHasaAffectsPeople+Employees+Customers+StakeholdersAestheticsAffectMany companies have beenembracing a whole-systemsapproach to service andproduct design built on a userexperience foundation.Could this work for org designalso – user/human/people-centered org design?HasaDesignThinkinDesignerMakesHasa
33New CollaborationThe Stanford Graduate School of Business isdeveloping new multidisciplinary programswith the seven other schools at StanfordUniversity and serving as a resource inpreparing leaders for the 21st century.
36Where do you find good ideas?Do you often find ideas that change everything ina windowless conference room, with bottled wateron the side table and a circle of critics andskeptics wearing suits looking at you as theclock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated forthis meeting? If not, then why do you keeplooking for them there? The best ideas come outof the corner of our eye, the edge of ourconsciousness, in a flash. They are the result ofmisdirection and random collisions, not agrinding corporate onslaught. And yet we wastebillions of dollars in time looking for themwhere theyre not.A practical tip: buy a big box of real woodenblocks. Write a key factor/asset/strategy on eachblock in big letters. Play with the blocks. Buildconcrete things out of non-concrete concepts.Uninvite the devils advocate, since the devildoesnt need one, hes doing fine.Have fun. Why not? It works.
37It’s not abouttools, it’sabout ideas(but there are a lot ofneat tools – a few inthe back-up slides)