November 24, 2019

Landscape Architecture Series: Unity

Where landscape architects have to be visionaries to be able to imagine how landscapes will look in many years and decades, so do business leaders. Environmental and architectural elements must be taken into account; microclimates, structural integrity, and more. Applying landscape architecture principles to business, we see these elements as transferable from the backyard to the boardroom.

It’s been said that some of the greatest landscape architects of all time never saw their work in the final way it was intended. Andre Le Notre of the Gardens of Versailles fame, Capability Brown, landscape architect of various English gardens… they all had to forward plan for the environmental changes that would make their gardens beautiful. Plants need to grow, flowers need to bloom and of course, weeds need to be removed. These aspects, however meticulously planned, are only able to then come together and produce a beautiful garden if the environmental conditions allowed. Even with the right nutrients, water and sunlight, the gardens can take years and years to grow as they were planned for. We see this need to plan for changing environments in business too, where careful planning and execution can lead to a successful business, much like it leads to a beautiful garden.

Take Thomas Church’s principles of landscape design as an example – unity, simplicity, scale and function; all concepts that are as relevant in a business as they are in the role of a landscape architect. Church, an American landscape architect, is credited with being the first professional in North America to incorporate the principles of abstract modernism into gardens, with tours around Europe and interests in Bauhaus and Cubism leading to what became known as the California Style.

In his book, Gardens are for people, Church outlines the main principles for his design process:

  • Unity: the consideration of everything as a whole
  • Function: the relation of the practical services to the needs of all users
  • Simplicity: the economic and aesthetic success
  • Scale: which relates all the parts to one another in the most effective way

Applying landscape architecture principles to business, we see these elements as transferable from the backyard to the boardroom.

The “godfather” of persuasion science, Dr. Robert Cialdini, recently added unity as an element to his six principles of influence, noting that he is referring to the shared identity that both the influencer and the influencee are part of. Both the leaders and employees of a company must share a vision for the business in order to be able to properly execute it and reach business goals; the more a group feels like a collective “us”, the more likely they are to work effectively as a whole.

The consideration of this whole that Church and Cialdini both wrote about can then extended to the business as a whole, not just the people – does your leadership and culture contribute to the sense of unity? Do your organisation and processes work for or against you? And are you executing your strategies in the best way for the whole business? In order to be successful, the elements of the business, much like in nature, must work in harmony with one another.

To achieve unity you have to be precise in your decisions; understanding how all elements will work together both today and into the future. By ensuring that you are breaking down the silos within your organisation, that your systems and processes are working together, and by taking a holistic view you will see your business flourish.

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