“The human soul is hungry for beauty: we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion and in ourselves. When we desire the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul… to awaken beauty is the call of our time. ~John O’Donohue
“The human soul is hungry for beauty.”
Not just in music, art or clothes. We yearn for beauty in the products and services we buy, in our communities and at work.
The beauty of in a burrito crafted with integrity, challenging the conventions of ugly fast food destroying our health.
The beauty of a shopping space architected with the goal of being an icon of sustainable design, challenging the ugliness of box malls blighting communities across North America.
The beauty of a business that puts employees first, challenging a rigid factory mindset that treats people as disposable resources.
Beauty is an outcome of a focus on the human side of business
Psychologist Howard Gardner defines beauty as interesting, of memorable form and inviting a revisit. “And as a bonus, it gives you a tingle.” Poet John O’Donohue defines it as “possibility that enlarges and delights the heart.” Modern philosopher Alexander Nehamas defines beauty as the promise of happiness. In an essay on the science of beauty, Maria Popova suggests that for Richard Feynman, beauty was the mesmerism of complexity. For E. B. White, it was the power of simplicity. For the influential early art theorist Denman Waldo Ross, it was a supreme instance of order. For legendary philosopher Denis Dutton, it was ‘a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors.’”
Possibility that enlarges and delight the heart.
Promise of happiness.
Power of simplicity.
Mesmerism of complexity.
Beauty is an outcome of a focus on the human side of business. Of a deep understanding of people’s dreams, desires and search for meaning. Of a pursuit of a higher purpose.
The language of business is slowly changing. Happiness is now part of the dialog thanks to Tony Hsieh who proved the value of designing a business around delivering happiness. Richard Branson has demonstrated time and time again that having fun in business pays. Love is entering the dialog thanks to organizations like Hubspot who are encouraging businesses to make love, not spam. And the concept of doing business for good is gaining ground, with organizations like M-PESA reinventing the finance industry to bring financial services to the poor.
Designing organizations for beauty
To awaken more beauty in the world, we need to design more beautiful organizations. We need to design organizations with inner beauty – beauty of purpose, values and structure. And we need to design organizations with outer beauty – beauty of products, services and impact.
We’re seeing early threads of a dialog around beauty with Howard Gardner’s Truth Beauty and Goodness Reframed, Judy Wicks’ Good Morning Beautiful Business, Jean-Baptiste Danet’s Business is Beautiful and Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Tim Brown (of IDEO fame) posed the question on his blog a few years ago (generating some thoughtful comments) but didn’t pursue the conversation.
I’ve captured some initial thoughts on what it means to design organizations for beauty this presentation, which was featured as presentation of the day on SlideShare.
The future is ours to dream into being
We’re in a time of tremendous disruption. Disruption can be a wonderful thing because it creates opportunity. Opportunity not just for transformation in our business models, but transformation in the language and purpose of business. What better time to start a conversation about explicitly designing for beauty in business?
The future is ours to imagine, design and build. And if we’re dreaming the future into being, why not dream of a future where business is beautiful. Where business delivers the promise of happiness. Where business is an incredible force for positive change in the world.
In the spirit of a more beautiful question, here are some questions to spark our collective imagination.
… leaders embraced truth, beauty and goodness as ideals worth striving for?
… organizations mentored employees in designing the story of their life’s work?
… we imagined a business that could win a Noble peace prize, and then designed it?
… organizations were designed as epic narratives?
How might we
… design organizations for beauty?
… architect organizations for happiness?
… make empathy an organizational core competency?
… craft organizations as creative forces for positive change in their communities?
Crafting an enduring organization is an art. So let’s hone our skills as artists to craft more beautiful art. For what is beautiful is loved. And, as Dostoyevsky famously said, “Beauty will save the world.”
Earlier version originally posted on CMSWire.