September 27, 2019

Landscape Architecture Series: Functionality

Function is one of the most basic elements of a successful company. If your business isn’t servicing the everchanging needs of your users – customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, etc, there won’t be a company for much longer. As outlined in his book, Gardens are for people, American landscape architect Thomas Church outlines function as one of the main principles for his design process. He considers function as the relation of the practical services to the needs of all users.

We see the natural world respond to changing environmental factors every day. Where some flowers change colours due to the pH levels in the soil, so too do changes in business occur depending on the conditions they are exposed to. Understanding how to take advantage of these changes to drive sustainable growth is the key to managing successful transformations and is the difference between leading a business that fails to survive or thrives.

The speed in which the world changes means that functionality cannot be a static thing; what a business needs to do to remain profitable and what each user needs will continue to change over time. Take for example the Butchart Gardens in Canada; a former lime quarry, the gardens are now among some of the most visited in Canada. Once the area had served its function as a quarry and all the limestone deposits had been exhausted by Robert Butchart’s cement manufacturing company, his wife Jennie Butchart commenced turning it in to the beautiful gardens they are today. Complete with an Italian, Japanese and Rose garden, the garden is now visited by over a million people each year, and has continued to be a successful business, years after its original function changed.

The Butchart Gardens state that they have been over 100 years in the making… when creating a beautiful garden, or a successful business, you have to be a visionary to imagine how the landscape is going to look years and decades later. You can’t immediately see everything as it should look, as plants and plans need time to develop and grow. Vision and determination are vital attributes for leaders to possess to inspire teams to work towards shared goals, enable change and create a successful future for the business. These attributes are required to foresee changes that will disrupt your business and in order to harness these changes to work for you before they work against you.

A determination to drive business evolution is needed to have a full understanding of the changes in functional requirements that are needed to continue business success. It is vital that stakeholders’ changing needs are understood, as well as the macro and micro trends that will create needs your stakeholders didn’t even know they had. How can you strengthen or change your business functions to remain practical and ahead of the needs of all your users? It is vital to regularly ask yourself this and implement strategies required to address any gaps identified.

The application of function, vision and determination to gardens by people like Jennie Butchart and landscape architects sees millions of people enjoying beautiful outdoor spaces each year. Applying these same principles to business can see you grow your business in much the same way that these gardens have grown – into beautiful creations that are testaments to many years of hard work.

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