a new reality in business organisations and the purposeful social space

in october 2015 three leading business magazines propogated on their covers a changed thinking on the traditional business organisation. 

the angles differed but the common message was: leaders have to rethink their organisation in the light of new means to finance the corporation, that the days of (western) incumbents are over and that the disappearing transaction costs diminish the necessity for organisations as we know them.

the analysis is solid and sharp as can be expected. the ideas on the form of the new organisation fall short. 

the concept of the purposeful social space might yet provide some fruitful design ideas. here are some.

spheres instead of corporate entities.  activities are organized in various overlapping spheres, each with its own conventions of participation. human actives are too divers and the complexity of interaction too large to catch them in one overarching entity. 

the label instead of the company. the label signals the shared desire that is owned by the participants of a specific sphere. the brand as the value of a corporation ceases to be a  meaningful concept. the dirigism of traditional brand management is replaced by labeled, responsible membership. 

the customer is more than demand. the traditional idea of the customer as the impersonation of demand is insufficient to grab the fulness of what is required from the new organisation. supply and demand is replaced by an far more interesting exchange of a broad spectrum of values. values that cover whole man not just homo economicus.

these three ideas are examples of a whole new set of design rules for the new organisation.

defining and experimenting with these new rules is a promising challenge and in that sense geoff colvin of fortune is right: the most valuable assets of the 21st century are openness to new ideas, ingenuity and imagination.


the death of the business model foretold

“(..)Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Robert Kennedy

art and the battle grounds of the digital age: an invitation


the quest for attention in the oceans of digital information is immense.  billions of euro's (or dollars for that matter) are spend to get the attention of the targeted audience, while the means and forms of electronic communication grow every day. the digital space as the battle ground for attention. 

the british sculpture Antony Gormley wrote recently in the financial times:

'This is where value arises: in giving form to something that has happened to us, making it our own and offering it to another'

so much for artificially generated content, algorithm based recommendations and big data generated knowledge.

creating meaning through what we offer to others is what counts. and that meaning comes from our own wonder and experience. that is also what we are longing for to hear listening to others. it is the base for attention and connection.

i invite you to join me to visit Gormley's work in real life and start a conversation on what it means in your organisation's conquest of the digital space. 







strategic design for the purposeful social space

The value of good design is that it makes the actual interaction with the object, subject to the design.

It means that, in the end, the design of a meaningful organisation is to make the individual experience coincide with the collective, however varied that may be. 

That is what strategic design is about. 

The strategics relates to a measure of awareness and deliberateness. Strategic design is based on a conscious proces, regardless of the measure of control or the methodology. Strategic is intentional. The purposeful social space is a result of human choices and behaviour, not of instinct or devine acts. 

Strategic design connects with the arts in that form and meaning (which is experience) are one. Maybe not as abstractive as in the arts, but the emotions and feelings, the questions and the answers that a purposeful social space induces, are profound and existential. 


palladio's lessons for the design of organisations: 6. savour a true architect

imagine the 16th century, the age when palladio lived, and see what he built.


the results still amaze people today and will do so for the future.

organisations are the spaces for people to create great things with their public and these spaces of purpose need to be shaped. organisations that stand out and survive turbulent times and ever faster changing fashions need great architects. such spaces need designers who elevate organisations to a next level of meaning and expression and withstand the ever present pressure of the reasonable compromise.

at stordes we try to take care of that role as strategic organisation designers, daringly.

palladio's lessons for the design of organisations: 4. iconic elements of form

Some organisations become iconic in a certain aspect their form. The iconic maybe  in their people (singapore airlines), their outlets (McDonald's Drive-in restaurant), the form of their products (the coca-cola bottle) or their price (primark). 

Creativity and originality combined with perseverance and dedication are the base for an icon. The iconic value emerges more than it is created.

And great iconic forms evoke copycats.



palladio's lessons for the design of organisations: 5. functionality is evident

In organisation design lots of effort are put in the workings of an organisation, assuring that it delivers the output as planned and in a way as foreseen. Functionality is the major and often the only parameter for the design of an organisation.

For really great design that functionality is obvious. It is just there. The true value lies in other aspects of the design. And this value remain even when the original functios has changed.

These values need to be explicitly incorporated in the design process, even at the expense of one dimensional functionality in order to create lasting beauty. 

All the buildings of Palladio have seen change in their original functional setting, yet they remain true proof of the genius of their designer and have kept their intrinsic qualities up to the present age.


palladio's lessons for the design of organisations: 3. the attractiveness of the uncommon

We keep in our minds images of how certain things are expected to look, based on certain characteristics they should have. Certain organisations are organised in certain ways and look accordingly.

Yet the real interesting things happen when we encounter something unexpected, something that deviates from what is the common. When we see the designer has taken things one step further, We do recognise the classical picture, but some how it is different, uncommon. 

And in that space of the uncommon lies the real attractiveness. In the organisation we can do things with a twist, we enlarge elements, change the rhythm or apply different forms. And while many parts remain within the known mental frame, the total becomes something interesting and appealing through thise uncommon elements.

In organisations the odd things may stand out and these need not to be flattened through common practices but they could be cherished and made part of the whole. It certainly will add to the attractiveness.



palladio's lessons for the design of organisations 2: the joy of variation

The design proces never stops. Even when the results of a current design effort results in a tangible object, the next design question come forward and new angles to it are needed. 

There is an enormous joy in exploring new forms, without discrediting the previous ones, but honouring them with new variations.

We do not need fixed forms of organisations, we need variation. A variation that do recognise the diversity of people, place, need, time, mindset, budget.

Variations however, do show the shared themes, the style and approach of the makers. 

Variations allow for progress and development and result in colorful oeuvres of work.

The oeuvre of Paladio shows an enormous diversity of joyful variations, while the classical theme and elegance of the building are undeniable from the hand of the master.

palladio's lessons for the design of organisations: 1. the power of interpretation

Not just applying the (classical) design rules, but interpreting the underlying principles in relevant forms makes an organisation standing out. Interpretation offers a interesting palet of divers outcomes which still reflect the original qualities.

Through such a design approach organisations occur that withstand time, keep their newness  and remain worthwhile. Mindless application of rules leads to boredom and obsoleteness.

The capability to interpret is rooted in deep understanding of the essence and a will to do that essence justice. Interpretation is a real form of creativity. Interpretation thrives through a subtle combination of modesty and personality. 

The value of organisational trends and solutions is the opportunity to go back to their roots and their core values and use the findings to design and create unique and special organisations. We have compared to Andrea Palladio enormous and easily available sources to draw from when it comes to (organisation) design. A great opportunity to build for for longevity.

power is reality not to be ignored in any purposeful social space


power is a reality. from the raw power of oppression to the positive power of stimulation and convincing, we have to face that reality, also in the purposeful space.

the idea of the purposeful social space as discussed in these updates is rooted in an idea of progress and humanity.  free will and beauty are pillars that are mentioned in the manifest.  the purposeful social space has a  positive and optimistic tone. having said that, we must not close out eyes for the more dark faces of power. power is too important in both its constructive and destructive abilities to be ignored.

power is never absolute in terms of scope and time and that fact provides the opportunity to mold it in such a way that it suits any specific purposeful social space. the numerous angles of power provide a versatile collection of building materials to construct a fitting power edifice for a purposeful social space. distribution, sources, means and expression of power are among the variables to play with. 

this makes power a seventh element of the purposeful social space that needs further exploration.

the double face of facebook's value exchange and the value of a purposeful social space

the value exchange of facebook has two sides. 

the first is the business side. in exchange for money facebook gives companies the opportunity to address a specific segment of its users. extensive  user profiles based upon the digital behaviour within the facebook (connected) domain combined with algorithms help companies to precisely reach their targeted audience. 

the other side of the exchange is related to the users. facebook provides without any monetary cost their users a platform to connect and interact with what is called their friends. and it is very much used by over a billion people. in exchange facebook is allowed to collect and use all the digital traces of their on-line behaviour as far as it is part of the facebook's sphere. 

the more ubiquitous and the more broadly and intensely this platform is used, the more value it has for the advertisers and the more revenues Facebook can earn. the individual user is as such not directly involved in this value exchange with the advertiser, although he is a profound contributor of value.

in terms of a purposefull social space where there is an open, balanced and well understood exchange of value for all participants, the question is whether this is the case with facebook. or is facebook better named janus-faced book?


the threshold of 500 connections as a convention of participation in the realm of linkedin

the conventions of participation can have a peculiar meaning in a social space.

within the space in linkedin, the professionals' network, when passing the threshold of 500 connections, the exact number of a member's connections is altered from the exact number into "500+". 

this rule (convention) set by the designers of this site has mysterious meaning: is this a token of strength ( apparently, you are well connected) or is it a sign that you do not take your linked connections seriously (assuming that the number of meaningfull connections is limited to under 501)?

what is the meaning in this delineation of the number 500?  why not create the space for a more open convention and let users set the delineation number themselves?   

it remains an interesting feature of this digital social space. and holds inspirations for designers and participants of any space. 


the label of a social space is not so much about the form as well about every individual's interpretation of it

the label is an element of the purposeful social space that makes the space identifiable in a remarkable way.

the working of the label are about the very personal interpretation of the individual people that are part of the space in what ever role. every individual interpretation of the label is what counts. 

the form of the label is the collective mark. and because it as always an aggregation of the designers' opinions about the interpretations, that form is always open for discussion. the form can be everything because in essence we can not steer individuals interpretation.

the lesson for marketeers and brandmanagers:

1) forget the delineation between inside and outside, the brand and the target audience, it is the collective interpretation in the social space that counts.  

2) the label is very important, but the form, stricktly, is not,

3) a meaningful interpretation of the label requires free will, beware of preconceived branding ideas.