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Monthly Archives: December 2011

In the previous 49 elements of organisational beauty I explored the quality of beauty in organizations. I covered organisational beauty in terms of characteristics, the mind-set, ideas, principles, examples, insights, suggestions. I tried to explain and grap the dimensions of organisation design that incorporates aspects of beauty. I encouraged the readers to overcome fear, think deeply, leave traditional paths, enlarge their pallet of interventions and allign the essence and meaning of their organisation in how the organisation is designed, materialized and experienced.

All these elements were more of less presented as a kind of universal truths.

This last element of organisational beauty is written from a more personal perspective. My personal believes, intention and wonderment with redefining the forms and materialization of organisation to allow beauty to come into view, has always been present. Now I intend to make that personal viewpoint explicit.

For me it is obvious that in the end the beauty itself can not be left out as an element of organisational beauty. It is too important and too special in all its mysteriousness. It is very concreet and abstract at the same time. And when experiencing beauty, it leaves me speechless while at the same time I want to shout it out. Beauty as the experience of wonder.

Beauty, for me, touches the essence of human beings, both in the ability to feel and experience beauty and in the ability to create it. For me it is about the drive  to surpass the just usefulness and about the strong urge to express believes and ideas. And the drive to create beauty goes hand in hand with a longing for beauty, for the excitement of experiencing something which is created  that is beyond imagination, beyond the obvious. Beauty reminds me of what I and others, in a positive sense, are capable of. Beauty has that unique position between the ratio of the mind and the love of the heart.

And that human aspect makes beauty for me an unavoidable element to consider when it comes to thinking about and designing organisations, because organisation are also such a very typically human artifact. The human kind has developed an enormous diversity originations. There is a great variety in form and purpose of organisations. And nobody else than we ourselves choose those forms. Nature has little to do with organisations, organisation are man made. Organisation define us as human beings, unorganized people do not survive both physically and mentally.

And in that combination of those two very human characteristics lies my fascination. When I and others are part of something we shape ourselves, I and others can choose our pathway. I think that there is a pathway that comes naturally, a pathway that can not be ignored. And that is the pathway of wonder and humanity, the pathway of beauty.

I hope that the 49 elements of organisational beauty I have covered so far, encourage others to embrace beauty itself as a truly great element in organisation design.

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Information exchange plays an important role in organisations. Information is instrumental in forming the actual organisation. In a way every organisation is an aggregation of specific information. There is the logo of an organisation, the symbol of unity of an organisation. There is information embedded in products and services. There is the external and internal communication that defines the organisation. There are the memo’s and instructions and procedures. There are the words in the description of function groups and responsibilities. There are graphics of the organisation charts. There is the way all operational information is handled and represented.

The diversity of information with regards to organisations is large. And due to the progress of technology the means and the formats to communicate have increased enormously. The choice is mind-blowing and there is a constant rat-race not to miss the newest, hottest (or coolest), most awesome info-channel to get your message across.

At the same time something odd is going on. The choice and liberty of formats is only partly used. There are a lot of websites that have their contact button at the left upper corner. Why? The freedom of format in tools like Facebook or Twitter is close to zero. OK, people love predictability and want things they recognise. And yes, we want people to use it and not be bothered by technique. Nevertheless, compared to what could be possible, only a fraction is used.

And in that sense, the enormous opportunities associated with these advanced and sometimes really great ways to exchange information, are missed. People in organisations forgo the innovative and powerful information tools to newly define and build organisations.

Maybe it is because taking advantage of the wonders and power of information requires more than just a page on Facebook. It requires clear thought about the message and the ideas behind what you want to express, deep thinking about how to engage people in an organisation, creative thinking about the right format and the most suitable medium. And as a leader, you can not leave that to communications professionals, you have to be involved. The responsibility for the way how information shapes the organisation, how information reinforces the values and the believes of an organisation, how information forms the glue between people and becomes instrumental in the actual workings of the organisation, is something that requires attention, personal attention.

Specific words and images in a specific context have incredible meaning. This is a powerful idea for everybody who wants to create and develop organisations. Attention to how that works and how to create those words and images that have that meaning is like being a sculptor, a sculptor of information that builds beautiful organisations.

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This infographic from 1841 drawn by Charles Joseph Minard depicts the campaign of Napoleon to Moscow.

A most instructive way to illustrate deathly hubris and an example of the power of  the format of information. And that was long before internet came to life.

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A moment of achievement, of insight, of happiness, of creation, of believe, of epiphany, of satisfaction, of will power, of energy. There are incredible  moments in my life where life is bigger than I. I encounter moments in my creative work, when I get a great idea that I know is going to work. There are moments when I work with people, where we come in a flow of mutual understanding and hyper-inspiration. There are moments of just working that have an intense feeling of tranquility, concentration, confidence and result. Moments of energy and certainty and mystery at the same time. Moments that come unexpectedly and bring unexpected results. Moments of opportunity, moments of magic.

Allowing those moments to come and reaping the results when they come is nothing less then embracing the magic, so I experience and believe.

People working in the creative sector, will recognise these moments. The unplanned, the coincidental moments of truth. They bring solutions beyond reasoning, that are immediately grabbed and worked on.

Recognising these extraordinary moments and cherishing them can bring a lot of benefits to a lot of organisations:

  • It is an antidote for narcism and ego building. You can only be grateful for a moment of magic, it is never a personal achievement.
  • The occurrence of the magic is helped by focus, knowledge, curiosity, dialogue. Not bad attitudes for an organisation in any way.
  • Learning to embrace magic is good for people’s personal development for its mix of humbleness and optimistic power.
  • It brings joy and satisfaction to all (be aware of magic killing cynicism).
  • It allows room to get real great results, the ‘magic’ solutions are beyond our rationality and embracing the magic is an excellent cure for mediocracy.

Incorporating the embracement of magic in organisations is paradoxical, because you can not force magic. But there are small iterative steps that may help. Making the idea of embracing the magic explicit (like I do with this blog), helps to create awareness with people. After a first initiative, leave it. Let things happen, do not manage, repeat: do not manage. And after a while see whether the magic has done its work and recognise and celebrate the moments of sheer magic. More aware and experienced, it is again time to hold management back and leave it once more. And after some time, recognise and celebrate again. Leave it, etc.

And a strong awareness and the mastery of embracement will emerge, with long lasting beauty.

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