Designing beautiful organizations

Our core purpose at Archetekt is ‘Designing Beautiful Organizations’. But what is that?

A beautiful organization is one that is in integrity with itself, with those who participate in and through it, and with its impacts/actions in the world. In short, a beautiful organization is one that is in alignment.

But what does this mean? Alignment with what?

To understand this we need to know why organizations exist.

Organizations exist for a specific purpose – which is different for each and every organization. Bluntly put:

Organizations are the answer to a question

Examples of the types of questions that underlay the creation of three well-known organizations are:

How can we create environmentally friendly consumer products?

Patagonia was created to ‘build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.’

How can we create a more just world?

OXFAM was built to bring about a ‘just world without poverty’.

How can we overcome tyranny?

And, the United States of America emerged out of an opposition to tyranny for the protection of individual’s rights to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

We can understand this concept better when, in looking at this through the lens of design, architect Christopher Alexander reminds us in his Notes on the Synthesis of Form that:

every design problem begins with an effort to achieve fitness between two entities: the form and the context. The form is the solution to the problem; the context defines the problem.  

In this respect then, August Welby Pugin’s speaks well to this when he says:

the great test of architectural beauty is the fitness of the design for the purpose intended.

A beautiful organization then is one which is in alignment, and hence integrity through its fitted-ness for the world. That is, the degree to which an organization’s form and function match the context for which it was created.

An organization’s alignment with the value it creates will be itself determined by the need for which it was called into this world. For organizations are the solutions to questions asked. Put bluntly a beautiful organization is one that answers the question asked well.

But context changes over time, and so too the questions needing to be asked also change over time. And, as the questions asked change, so too the form and function of an organization will necessarily change to ensure that the correct answers are able to be provided. Strategic Design is an important aspect of this form of ongoing dialogue in the world. As Herbert Simon notes in Sciences of the Artificial, design is the:

transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones.  

This is what Strategic Design helps you and your organization do.

Strategic Design is the facilitation of organizations to ensure that:

there is clarity on the questions asked (that underpin the creation and ongoing existence of the organization), and

that these organizations possess the form necessary to successfully provide the answer required.

That is, that your organizations create the value in the world that they were created to manifest, that they are…beautiful.

This then is how and why we work ‘Designing Beautiful Organizations’.

For more on this and other arguments that underpin our work see The New Aesthetics.