“Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”
– Jonathan Swift, Gullivers travels
As I walked past the lush green office lawn, I felt nothing.
Here was this pristine, manicured and lush carpet of grass. So well maintained. Why did I not delight in the beauty of the whole thing?
I soon realized. The sameness of it all put me off. All offices that have the luxury of surrounding space have a green lawn. A majority keep it completely off limits to maintain the picturepostcard look. What does it convey? What does it instill?
Just across the lawn behind the glass facade are people being asked to deliver on disruptive innovation. As they sit across their desks or move towards the window, they see a patch of green being kept the same. It is a hallowed piece of turf – sacred, not to be trampled upon. You can look, but you cannot go. You can go, but you cannot change. Why? Why? Because it spoils the place. Does it? Even if it does, aren’t you screaming at the top of your lungs that you want people to get down in the trenches and get their hands dirty. Why not demonstrate that right in front of your office?!
An organization that truly wants its employees to get going will look at even this patch of land as an instigator of thought and action. You want your employees to be mindful of business cycles. Why not convert the office lawn into a small field and grow something on it? Your employees see first-hand the cycle of seasons and how the crop responds to them. They can correlate it with the cycle of business. Even better, if employees are encouraged to plant the crop and get involved.
If you want your employees to become productive, it is a much better sight to let cattle graze upon the grass! And set employees the challenge of regulating the grazing so as to replenish the grass. You instill the message of productivity and the challenge of living within resource constraints so much better this way, don’t you think? The office lawn becomes a living, breathing space.
Instead, the picture-perfect green induces a state of passive acceptance. The message is this – “The Context has been set. Everything is beautifully set in place. Appreciate the view. Do not tinker with it.” The message is good if your organization is a museum. It makes everybody function like Egyptian mummies – dead for a long, long time.
How sad when we can let our imagination go wild green! And invite employees to roll on the grass!
The spaces we live in and give shape to end up shaping us too. As you sit in your office, look around and ask, what is the absolutely mundane, taken for granted, supposedly aesthetic arrangement or space that you can disrupt for instigating new thought and action!