Michelangelo is reputed to have said that “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it’s the job of the sculptor to discover it.”
Sculpture can offer a compelling, elegant and generative metaphor for thinking about the culture of an organisation.
Yet if we consider culture as a static entity – the block of carved marble – then we encounter several common issues found in many organisations. These include:
- Myopia: organisations focus on only one version of the ideal culture when many other versions of the ideal are always possible. Cultural values are carved in stone and remain static for all to observe.
- Dynamics: A static culture often becomes very inward-looking and consequently pays insufficient attention to its place in the world, not just its own marketplace by its moral role in the wider world. The world, as we know, works systemically and an ideal culture can and must evolve as a result of being shaped by external forces as these evolve and shift over time.
- Passive: In static culture, employees are implicitly (and in some cases, explicitly) seen as passive recipients where lively debate is allowed but constrained within a spectrum of acceptable opinion.
I’d like to propose that a kinetic sculpture is perhaps a more apt metaphor for organisation culture because:
- – Kinetic sculpture design is minimal, simple and embodies the scientific principles of resonance and frequency.
- – Movement and connection to the environment is an integral part of kinetic sculpture design; effect and impact arises from motion,
- – Kinetic sculptures are both allostatic (i.e. not human-centric) and systemic in that there is an acceptance of place within the wider order of the system and the dynamics that come to shape it over time.
Good organisation culture and its natural rhythm also resonate with the viewer. The constant motion is both hypnotic and captivating for the viewer. [Think of those organisations whose cultures we stop to admire].
The Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, one of the mid-century pioneers of kinetic art, perceptively declared “The only stable thing is movement.” and that “all that matters is to live in the present.”
How we shape the culture of business needs to move on. If we accept culture as a conversation then culture happens in parallel, is concurrent and occurs in real-time.
Our principles for culture design and approach now need updating.
In current times, I suggest that Kinetic sculpture offers organisations of all shapes and sizes an enticing model and set of design principles for organisations to aspire to.