Friday, December 18, 2015

Elegant Design Creates Disruptive Change


„Elegance is architecture at the top of the game“, according to editor Helen Castle in the  January 2007 edition of Architectural Design, who further states that „elegance’s time has now come.“

Indeed, over the last ten years elegance has emerged as a trend which is quickly picking up speed in the fields of architecture, design, innovation and strategic business leadership, as it provides a powerful key to managing complexity.

But quite frankly, when I discuss the concept and benefits of elegance with business entrepreneurs and executives, I often get a blank stare as a response.

It seems that for most people, elegance is a relatively meaningless word, which is best left to the creators of fashion and haute couture, as well as their marketing gurus and the editors of glossy magazines.

According to my experience, most business leaders would view elegance as a largely irrelevant concept.

Until lately, that is.

For in the last ten years we have seen more and more disruptive concepts, technologies and products launched into the world markets, which have changed the way in which we live, work, and create value.

The IPhone, with it’s deceptively simple, elegant design and it’s complex, rich sub-structure completely revolutionized the world of mobile phones and hand-held devices.

The Google search engine, with it’s clean, uncluttered design and meaningful search results pretty much blew away most of the potential competitors.

The list of great examples for new, successful, disruptive solutions, products and technologies which make use of the key concepts of elegance is growing quickly.

„So what is  the secret sauce?“ some executives have asked me.

There are several aspects to the power of elegant design, which I will be covering in my blog over the next few weeks. But to paraphrase Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, one of the key benefits of true elegance is that it allows for complexity to coincide with a relative reduction of complication by means of integrating multiple elements into a coherent system.

Swiss watchmakers can teach us a lesson about elegance in this respect. A really good watch should have a surface structure which is easy to understand, that allows for intuitive navigation. But below the surface, the inner works of a truly great watch will include a grand complication, representing the most complex achievements of haute horlogerie. You and I don’t need to understand the inner works of a watch to be able to use it. If it is elegantly designed, it’s use will require virtually no explanation.

Thus, elegance provides a means of articulating complexity in a way that enables easy comprehension and intuitive navigation.

In an increasingly chaotic, complex, ever-changing world, business leaders and entrepreneurs need to manage complexity by mastering such elegant techniques in order to make better decisions and create increased business value.

Elegant business decisions, solutions and innovations combine a simple surface-structure with a rich, complex sub-structure. The resulting business-leadership techniques may seem simple and obvious at first sight – but don’t be deceived! This type of simplicity is rich, complex and deeply satisfying. And as in the cases of Apple, Google and many other elegant innovators, this approach can help you to create disruptive changes to your advantage in the markets you operate in.

So what is the significance of elegance in the business world?

You could say that elegance combines simplicity with complexity to create and leverage disruptive change.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Selective Success

Elegance stems from the word "eligere", which means to select, elect, choose.

Elegant success comes from being selective about

- what objectives we commit to
- what people and organizations we get involved in
- what we spend our time and energy on
- what effect we allow our success to have on our life

Many business professionals reach their objectives - and still don't feel successful or satisfied. To the contrary - many fall into a depression after reaching their business or life goals.

Why ?

One of the reasons is that we often focus on the outer form of our objectives, rather than the essence and the effect of what we wish to achieve.

We focus on the result instead of the experience.

And if we were to spend time to get clear about the essence and effect of our true objectives in business and private life, we would often find that they are quite easy to achieve. A lot of the frenzied action will fall away, once we elect to get clear about the effect.

Elegant success means putting our full force into achieving the essence of what we really want or need - and letting go of unproductive, unnecessary (but often "urgent") activities.

Elegance in business allows us to focus our energies and achieve great feats without burning out.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

What Is Elegance?

In her book on ELEGANCE, Kathleen Tessaro describes many different elements of elegance, coming closer and closer to the essence of the meaning of the word.

The most interesting points for me were her following observations:

Elegance is more art than science. It is impossible to copy - it is unique.

Fashion does not equal elegance. For an individual to be elegant may require that he or she decides against conforming to fashion dictates, deciding to develop their own taste, style and form of expression, instead.

Fashion may indeed be the opposite of elegance. True elegance easily lives on when fashion has come and gone.

As Kathleen puts it: "Fitting in is for school-girls. Being different is not a crime, but an asset."

Discretion is the cornerstone of elegance - a discerning spirit that decides swiftly, precisely and wisely. And sometimes wise decisions are based on learning from our worst mistakes.

Ultimately, elegance means naturally being your true self right now.

Not following the latest fashion, nor ascetically simplifying your life to death.

But being your very best you - right now.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Prevent Your Eclipse!

Did you know that your blind spot may be preventing you from achieving truly satisfying success?
 
In medicine, your blind spot is the place in the visual field which corresponds to the lack of light-detecting photoreceptor cells on the optic disc of the retina in your eyes. The brain interpolates the missing input-data which should be received in the area of your blind spot based on data gained from the surroundings, as well as information from the other eye, so that we are usually not aware of the blind spot’s existence.

But most of us have a blind spot at the core of our being which affects our business and our private life in a much more serious manner. Our past experiences have shaped and cemented our beliefs, assumptions, and expectations of how the world works to such an extent, that we have literally become blind to what is really going on in and around us.

We interpolate, making assumptions about what is going on around us, based on factors we are no longer conscious of, driven by forces at work in our blind spot which are no longer under our control.

In fact, these subconscious factors control us.

Sometimes they may protect us from harm.

And, come to think of it, most of these subconscious programs were probably originally created to help, support and protect us!

But they may also prevent us from making the necessary changes happen today.

More often than not, they will sabotage our ability to make effective decisions to change our life and our business for the better. I see these forces in the blind spot at work virtually every time I coach corporate clients, executives and business owners, although they are usually not consciously aware of what is going on under the surface. Having said that, most of my clients state that they sense a need to address these subconscious forces, which often prevent true success from happening.

So, what size is your personal blind spot?

You probably have no clue.

Most people don’t

In my coaching work with executives and business owners, I frequently find that this blind spot is quite large and powerful. Sometimes it can become so strong, that it may overshadow all of your positive achievements.

In these moments of self-sabotage your moon may eclipse your sun.

Your blind spot moves in front of your sweet spot and prevents you from succeeding.

If you find yourself sabotaging your ability to succeed, you may want to learn how to turn your blind spot into your sweet spot!

You can find out more about how to do this at www.elegant-success.com

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Little Black Dress

Coco Chanel stated that simplicity is the key to any kind of true elegance.

But I dare to differ. Very often simplicity is not elegant at all. If we over-simplify our world, it becomes mono-dimensional, monochrome, lifeless and boring. If we simplify our world-view to an extent where the good cowboys wear white hats, and the bad cowboys black hats, we miss the multi-colour richness of experience the real world has to offer. Instead of trying to manage the complexities we face through black-and-white reductionism, we need to learn to manage our complex reality not by cutting through it and simplifying it. In order to achieve truly satisfying, elegant results, we need to embrace our complex reality by merging with it, gaining a deep, complete and essential understanding of it. Once we have achieved a state of total immersion in a topic, we may find that elegant solutions suddenly present themselves in the most unexpected moments, like a flash of lightning, when inspiration strikes. The resulting solutions may seem simple at first sight – but don’t be deceived! This type of simplicity is rich, complex and deeply satisfying. It provides a profound sense of significance. It addresses the real root causes of a situation, and it usually has a broad-ranging effect. In the fields of information technology, mathematics and engineering, elegant solutions provide a surprisingly simple method, which is normally not obvious at first sight, to produce a highly effective result, often solving multiple problems at once - even problems which may not be inter-related! Although these solutions may seem simple, their quality has nothing to do with reductionism, austerity, and blinkered ways of thinking.

Maybe Coco Chanel’s little black dress can teach us a lesson about true elegance.

This little black piece of magic is designed to reveal just enough, and hide just enough of the lady wearing it, in order to highlight her beauty, whilst at the same time concealing possible challenges in the most complimentary way. Ideally, the little black dress should not be noticed at all by the beholder. If it does its job well, it should simply act as a platform on which the lady can shine!

True elegance combines simplicity with complexity to create beauty!

Elegant solutions are often gentlemanly, unassuming, polite, working their miracles in the background. They don’t have to promote themselves. Their results speak for themselves. So – what might all of this mean for you? Elegance invites you to replace your accumulative drive for quantity with a selective quest for quality.

Elegance challenges you to upgrade and downsize at the same time!

Elegance encourages you not to follow marketing fantasies, fads or fashions, but to develop a strong sense of your own personal style instead. Use your refined sense of style as a filter when making decisions about what to do, what to buy, which people to associate with, and which circumstances you choose to quietly walk away from.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Elegant Objectives

Scientists have found that the moment a person sees a tangible object, their brain starts preparing to reach out for it. When the participants in scientific tests were shown pictures of tangible objects and tools, regions of the brain were activated which are needed for the planning of manual actions and movements. But when they showed participants pictures of large animals, they found that only those areas of the brain were activated that are required to perform the seeing activity. Obviously the brain decided that these objects were too large to handle and refrained from planning to reach out to them. The objectives were too large and thus the brain concluded that it was not worthwhile having the hand reach out for them.

The hand will not reach for what the heart does not long for!

Does this tell us something about how we might want to define our personal or business objectives?

No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to set smaller objectives!

But we may need to check whether our heart (our subconscious mind) perceives the objectives we set as tangible and achievable enough, so that we will indeed reach out…

Objectives you give yourself need to be processed by your brain. So, in order for us to design better objectives, it might help for us to know a bit more about how the brain processes such signals. Research into the way our brain works shows that representations of input into the cerebral cortex of our brain is structured like maps. The input-data are structured in a manner that ensures that similar input-signals stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain closely located to each other.

Furthermore, it seems that frequent input-signals take up more space than the infrequent. So, for instance musicians have more space allocated for their acoustic map in their cerebral cortex than do non-musicians, due to the frequency and intensity of the acoustic signals their brain has had to process. The underlying structural principles of how our cerebral cortex processes signals would thus be similarity and frequency.

So what?

What might this tells us about the way in which we should work with our objectives?

One conclusion might be that sitting down for yourself on December 31st to work out your new year’s resolutions is not enough. Nor will an annual objective-setting meeting with an individual employee suffice, if you are a boss. If you really want the brain to start planning and getting into action, if you want your heart to make your hand reach out for your objectives and ensure you meet them, you will need to make sure the brain accepts the objective as achievable and then increase the intensity and frequency of the input signals.

You say you don’t have time to review your objectives on a daily basis?

Then maybe you are not really convinced that your objectives are important enough?

Turning up the heat!

So what happens when we purposely increase the intensity and frequency of the objective signals we feed our brain with?

It seems that the nerve cells in our brain are connected with their neighbouring cells in a way that ensures that whenever a specific area of the brain is stimulated, the cells closely surrounding this area are stimulated, too, whilst the more distant cells are actively prevented from being stimulated. Some people call this focusing or lasering your thoughts and thinking patterns, for the more you increase the intensity and frequency of a signal, the more you leverage this principle.

In the process of thinking and learning, connections are created and successively strengthened between nerve cells, so that stable representations are generated out of the received sensations and input-signals. The learning effect is directly related to the strength and importance of the input signals. Over time, our brain produces an individual representation and version of the world and the reality surrounding us out of the input-signals it receives. Our brain is constantly learning from each and every signal it receives. In fact, one thing it can probably not do is not to learn!

This means that based on the type, strength and frequency of the input-signals our brains are fed, the maps in our brains are being structured on a very individual basis. And, based on the input our brains have received in the past, we will learn differently, interpreting input signals we receive from our environment based on past experience – constantly filtering and patterning these signals based on our internal maps.

In setting better objectives to ensure we generate elegant success, we need to take these mind-patterns into account.