The Artful Organization

In today’s business climate, the focus is no longer on manufacturing “stuff” but on generating and developing knowledge. The models we have successfully used in the past to run our businesses are now shown to be outmoded and not only unhelpful but actually detrimental to success [a].  We now need to think in new ways. We need to go beyond business management, business administration and business engineering and embrace business as an art form.  It is time to usher in the artful organization [b].

The artful organization fosters a culture of openness, trust and innovation; it is a place where creativity and joy flourish as happy equals to financial success. The artful organization employs extraordinary, and sometimes counter-intuitive ideas, juxtaposed with a pragmatic approach, and interwoven with ideas of beauty, style and form to generate the tension, energy and wonderment required to reinvent the world, as we all must do.

The artful organization doesn’t require prescribed processes or new-fangled fix-all methodologies, it requires the spirit of inventiveness combined with human-centric qualities such as love, understanding and service.

I’d like to offer a set of values, principles and practices that I believe (through experience) provide a framework for change — a new approach to creating and sustaining a successful business.

5 Values

  1. Courage — seek your edge; speak from your heart
  2. Trust — lead from a place of faith, not suspicion; follow likewise
  3. Congruency — act with integrity, so your actions and your feelings are always in alignment
  4. Humility — acknowledge your uniqueness, celebrate your strengths, yet strive to be a worker amongst workers
  5. Service — Be alert to the needs of others; ask for and offer help in equal proportion, for service is in the receiving as much as in the giving

7 Principles

  1. Empiricism — experience coupled with frequent reflection allows an organization to learn fast and adapt in real time
  2. Self-Organization — those closest to the problem have the best knowledge and intuition of how to solve the problem; create cross-functional teams to maximize the potential of this principle
  3. Focus — a culture of abundance is created when we set priorities and minimize the amount of work in progress at any given time; completion generates happiness
  4. Transparency — the truly open organization fosters trust and courage, and banishes fear and suspicion
  5. Rhythm — a regular heartbeat leads to good health; flow follows cadence
  6. Tribal Knowledge — knowledge that is kept alive through story-telling is always current, always relevant; shared ideas grow and prosper
  7. Emergence — the best products and services are not defined, but evolve organically, adapting to their environments as they grow

5 Practices

  1. Listen — take time to hear the needs and ideas of others; ask open, exploratory questions; practice dialog beyond discussion
  2. Collaborate — cultivate a yes-and, because-of-that, help-me-to-see-it mindset; learn to play
  3. Reconceive — embrace conflict, rise above compromise
  4. Make Powerful Requests — express value, define well-formed outcomes, and create a clear separation between What and How
  5. Be Still — maximize the amount of work not done; breathe

Applying this spiritual framework, or something like it to your business, and building processes and procedures on such a foundation will ensure you have the flexibility to stay alive and relevant, and avoid the danger of equilibrium [c].

There are no silver bullets. We all know that. There are no bullets at all, because there are no guns. We need new metaphors, and we need a new way of thinking. We have spent the last century forgetting art. Now it is time to remember — it is time to rediscover.


[c] Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business, by Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman, Linda Gioja

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