The Language of Landscape and Business

Anne Whiston Spirn speaks of the language of the landscape as parts of speech, each with separate functions and associations.

Flowing, like a verb, is expressed in both water and path. Water and path, like nouns are actions’ agents and objects; like adjectives or adverbs, their qualities of wetness or breadth extend meaning. Elements do not exist in isolation, but rather combine in significant ways, like words in a phrase, clause, or sentence, to make a tree, fountain, street, or a larger, more complex landscape—garden, town or forest.

— Anne Whiston Spirn, The Language of Landscape

Elements of organizations, like landscapes, also do not exist in isolation and they can be combined in significant ways to make a more complex entity. Design helps people see the potential in recombining or reordering these elements in order to create a new organization or service. New businesses are being born that combine pieces that were previously mutually exclusive. 

In early 2015, McKinsey & Company acquired Silicon Valley’s oldest design firm, LUNAR. This event in particular signaled that the business world has started taking design seriously. A recent article in Fast Company also noted several other important acquisitions: the Chinese communication group BlueFocus acquired Yves Béhar’s Fuseproject, and the banking giant Capital One bought Adaptive Path. These developments are important because design is going in-house and designers will be in a better position to help executives develop a business’s potential and contribute to conversations on strategy.

The landscape for business is changing quickly. Those armed with the ability to help their customers structure their business environment to meet their needs will be in the best position to create long-term growth.

As business becomes more fluid, the very nature of the development of strategy may need to change. I see strategy as design.

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