aesthetics, beauty, business, management, innovation

The Aesthetics of Management

As a writer, painter and Christian, I resonate on a number of levels with the 13th Century philosopher and theologian, Thomas Aquinas.

For the purpose of our ongoing discussion on building and leading cultures of innovation, I want to focus on Aquinas’ premise that three qualities are required for beauty: integrity, harmony and radiance.

INTEGRITY is the quality of standing out from the background. HARMONY is how the parts relate to the whole. RADIANCE refers to the pleasure we feel when we experience beauty.

And, according to Aristotle, the language of beauty is aesthetics.

While the world of art and culture are fluent in the language of beauty and aesthetics, the world of business is not. At least not yet.

But it soon will be.

According to Marty Neumeier, author of the book, The Designful Company, which has also been the source of much of the content in my last three posts, “The same principles that activate other forms of art will soon be essential to the art of management.”

He believes that the more technological our culture becomes, the more we will need the sensual and metaphorical power of beauty.

While we can easily apply the principle of aesthetics to the design of a web page, the contours of a type font and the textures of a painting, Neumeier says we can also apply them to the principles of management.

“For example, when you increase differentiation, you are using the principle of integrity. When you optimize synergy, you’re using harmony. And when you enhance customer experience, you’re using radiance.”

Businesses and organizations striving to create and foster a culture of innovation need leaders who not only speak the language of business, but who are also fluent in the language of aesthetics.

Here are the elements that make up the discipline of aesthetics to which Neumeier has applied his Aesthetics of Management:

CONTRAST: How can we differentiate ourselves?

DEPTH: How can we succeed on many levels?

FOCUS: What should we NOT do?

HARMONY: How can we achieve synergy?

INTEGRITY: How can we forge the parts into a whole?

LINE: What is our trajectory over time?

MOTION: What advantage can we gain with speed?

NOVELTY: How can we use the surprise element?

ORDER: How should we structure our organization?

PATTERN: Where have we seen this before?

REPETITION: Where are the economies of scale?

RHYTHM: How can we optimize time?

PROPORTION: How can we keep our strategy balanced?

SCALE: How big should our business/organization be?

SHAPE: Where should we draw the edges?

TEXTURE: How do the details enliven our culture?

UNITY: What is the higher order solution?

VARIETY: How can diversity drive innovation?

The language of beauty and aesthetics may sound strange to the ear of business, at least it will at first. But only because it hasn’t been listening to those who have already been speaking it, some for quite a while now.

Buckminster Fuller, the renowned American architect, author, designer, inventor, and futurist said, “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

I’ve got a way to link aesthetics to business in a very powerful way, and it will only take two words.

These two words can literally weld aesthetics and business together in a seamless bond that will stand the test of time.

Simplicity and efficiency.

Not only are these two words the twin threads that run through the discipline of aesthetics, they are also the goal of every business and organization on the planet.

If you want your business to run efficiently as it fosters innovation and manages change, forget bringing in the so-called efficiency experts. Just hire more
third-brain thinkers.

And, if you’re interested, all three of mine are for rent. Winking