Category Archives: Holistic Thinking


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Space affects moods.  A beautiful space can make people happy; a small cramped office can make them feel depressed.  But more important, space also affects behaviors and communication.  Open space offices allow an easier flow of communication among team members and can convey a strong feeling of belonging, but they also can make it harder to focus.  Separate offices allow for more privacy and concentration but can easily create silos that separate people and teams.  Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you need to be ready to manage space not only from a budgetary standpoint but also from the perspective of what it is your creative teams actually need in order to be creative and to deliver the level of innovation your company needs.  To achieve this, some companies will have to literally give away space–that is, to sacrifice space for its positive impact on the environment, the company culture and ultimately the creative output.

Office space is an expensive commodity, especially in the world’s most competitive markets, and historically offices have been designed and furnished to maximize administrative efficiency and minimize facility costs (private offices only for senior executives, “cube farms” for lower-ranking personnel).  But today companies are looking at efficiency differently, and consequently they are looking at space differently.  They are looking for ways to maximize the creative output of their employees, and from that viewpoint the most efficient use of space is one that supports creative interactions.  For example, Pixar’s California headquarters–where bathrooms, mailboxes, and meeting rooms are clustered at the center of the building–are designed to ensure that employees from different divisions of the company are certain to run into each other throughout the day.  This facilitates informal and random conversations among diverse team members and allows creative ideas and collaborations to be born.  I once had a client who wanted to close off an open space in their New York City offices; I struggled hard to convince them otherwise.  The company needed more private meeting rooms.  Moving out of their existing facility was not an option, nor was renting another floor, so the president of the company wanted to build elegant glass walls to enclose what in his opinion was wasted space.

My observation was quite different.  The open space, which offered an inviting round table nestled by a large staircase, was the only place in the office where different members of the product development team would spontaneously sit to discuss their projects.  Account managers would stop there after coming back from client meetings to share the latest developments about those clients and their projects.  In other words, it was the perfect spot for informal communication and feedback loops.  In the end, the precious open space was saved in spite of financial pressures.

How can your workspace benefit by creating places for accidental encounters or informal meetings?


Why Play Is Essential to Results

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Imagine yourself driving to someone’s house for a surprise birthday party.  Every guest has been asked to arrive at a certain time to keep the surprise a surprise. You left home late. You’re in a hurry. You’re now focused on the road in order not to be late. You don’t want to miss the face of your friend completely surprised, between tears and laughter. You’re completely absorbed in one goal:  to get there as soon as possible. You don’t have “time” to notice the surroundings.  You’re all about the destination. There’s no real journey, because you’re not taking in what’s around.  And if someone asked you whether on your way over you saw a house under construction a mile away from your friend’s house, chances are you’d say that you had not seen it because you were too focused on trying to be on time.

Now imagine yourself this time driving along the same road.   The road goes through the Colorado Rockies.  You’re here on vacation.  This is the first time you’ve ever been in Colorado. It’s Sunday.  You don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time.  No real plan for the day besides reaching your next destination at some point, whenever you get there.  You set out early.  You have plenty of time ahead of you.  Chances are this you will enjoy the spectacular scenery, very aware of what’s around you; you’ll notice the particular light on that day, the colors of the mountains, the vegetation, and many other minute details.

Same road, same person, two totally different attitudes; one is about the destination (result): the other is about the journey (play).  So if we accept that creativity is essential in life in order to adapt to change and to keep evolving (whether as individuals or organizations), then we need to allow for and cater to the journey, the playfulness that defines the creative process.  Being obsessed with results leaves out the playful, imaginative dimension of life.  Our tendency is to focus too much on results, because our rational mind tells us that focusing on results is the best way to make good decisions.  This focus also feels more comfortable and gives us a sense of control over the situation we’re in.  This is why we tend to approach efficiency in a linear way.  Yet in a highly complex environment, linear efficiency is not the answer.

It’s really not about results and play being in opposition.  It’s about understanding the need for a collaborative synergy between play and results in order to reach a creative outcome. Obviously we need to get things done.  But without a balance between the two, we run the risk of either never getting anywhere or getting someplace but not being aware of the changes in our environment.  This is why it is important that in our approach to life, or a project, we keep a dynamic relationship between linear efficiency and the random nature of creativity.

Build Holistic Thinking Into the DNA of Your Brand For Outstanding Results

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.23.46 PMWhen it comes to business, too often we expect profitability to be the driver of satisfaction, and therefore of motivation.  But this isn’t actually how it works.  When we want people to be creative or to change, adapt, and innovate, profitability alone won’t motivate them to do that.  These activities require a deep commitment, and if any part of us is not engaged, we won’t make that commitment.

This is why the first tenet of Intuitive Intelligence is the ability to think holistically; in other words, the ability to focus on value that goes beyond dollars and cents to include thing like integrity, honor, and meaning.  The legendary retailer Hermès Paris is a case in point, Hermès is a luxury goods house specializing in leather, ready-to-wear apparel, lifestyle accessories, perfumery, and fashion.  Its undisputed reputation as one of the most prestigious luxury companies in the world comes from a tradition of impeccable craftsmanship and a holistic approach to business.  Established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddle shop in Paris, Hermès today has fourteen product divisions, employs seven thousand people, and owns stores all around the world.  Hermès reports a total billing of approximately two billion euros and a next profit margin of roughly 10 percent.  The is a spectacular success.  But what’s even more remarkable is that Jean-Louis Dumas, who was CEO of Hermès for twenty-eight year until 2006, always looked at Hermès in a holistic way.  His vision for Hermès was inseparable from the three core pillars that define the brand.

First, using strategic skills, he envisioned Hermès as always ahead of consumer and market trends.  Second, he called on Hermès’ creative skills to invent luxury goods of exceptional value that exceeded users’ expectations.  Third, using keen management skills, he always stressed the fact that it was equally important to make sure that all Hermès products could feasibly be manufactured according to consistently outstanding quality standards.  And fourth, emphasizing saleability, he determined that all goods produced had to be marketable, because Hermès is not about is not about objects of art for museums and galleries;  it sells consumer good for the enjoyment of customers.  This holistic approach, which was first articulated by Dumas for Hermès, has been enforced ever since because it has consistently ensured the integrity of the Hermès reputation.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011. 

Intuitive Intelligence Turns the Credit Card Processing Industry on Its Head

Suneera Madhani’s leadership of her game-changing credit card processing company, Fattmerchant, exemplifies three of the four tenets of Intuitive Intelligence (thinking holistically, thinking paradoxically, leading by influence), and it’s paying off in spades. She also honors the millennial generation’s need for transparency, creating 50-75% monthly growth and tremendous customer loyalty, particularly notable because they don’t have to sign long-term contracts.

The 4 Tenets of Intuitive Intelligence

Even thought this article was written quite a while ago we really like it because it describes all 4 tenets of Intuitive Intelligence: thinking holistically, thinking paradoxically, noticing the unusual, and leading by influence. Intuitive Intelligence is timeless, as is truly connecting with your customers. Sharpening your skills in each of these areas will help you balance the tension of reason with instinct and play with results throughout your organization.

Bright Ideas: The Creative Power of Groups

Using Your Whole Brain Leads to Holistic Experiences–and Better Business

brainEmbracing and utilizing all three parts of our brain can lead us to a much richer life. All of this new information will also tremendously enrich our creative life. So what does this have to do with business? As I said in The Intuitive Compass, “There is one simple truth about business that seems to be forgotten: business is both facilitated by people and meant to serve people, and people are holistic.