Op-Ed: Why Businesses Should Strive To Be More Beautiful
Alan Moore describes why he has made it his life’s mission to help businesses discover their own unique beauty
Emerson said that beauty gets us out of surfaces and into the foundations of things.
In 2016 I published ‘Do Design. Why beauty is key to everything’. Since then, I’ve invited businesses from around the world to explore an intriguing question — ‘What would your business look like if it were more beautiful?”
I sought out leaders and CEOs, craftsmen and makers, artists and writers who lead lives with greater purpose. In that inspiring journey I met many companies that show business can be worthwhile, meaningful and profitable.
Here are my top 10.
No.1 Brunello Cucinelli Cucinelli pays his staff more than the average wage for their jobs, insists they work no longer than eight-and-a-half hours a day, and spends around 20% of his profits on what he calls “the gift”. He runs an oversubscribed craft school, where students learn tailoring, stonemasonry and embroidery, among other disciplines. His listed company grows at 10% every year. Cucinelli has developed a business philosophy based upon a humanistic view of the world. Cucinelli says “I would like to make a profit using ethics, dignity, and morals. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I’m trying.”
No.2 The Santa Cruz Guitar Company — I have been playing guitar on and off since I was 12. This year my friend put a Santa Cruz Guitar in my hand. It was just magnificent, the tone, the depth of tone, its vibrancy, its playability. I fell in love, it was such a joyful experience. Richard Hoover, the founder talks about how they get ‘the tone’, through feel and knowledge of wood and making. He talks down-to-earth wise words. “We work for meaning”, he says.
No.3 Xero — “beautiful accounting software”. These are Xero’s words not mine. Accounting is one of those things we all have to do. It can be as ugly as nits. Or, it could be beautiful. A beautifully designed business this one, taking the simple logic of taking one of life’s absolute truths – taxes, then turning the process into a thing of uncommon grace. Life enabling, life simplifying, beautiful UX, beautiful businesses model.
No. 4 HIUT DENIM — Cardigan Bay sits on the very western edge of Wales. It is here that founders Clare and David Hieatt have set up Hiut Denim. Why is Hiut an elegant business? Because they are focused on every detail. Mastery is everything, which is not a science but a practice. They make the best jeans from the best materials and sell them to fans across the globe.
No. 5 Dementia village — De Hogeweyk or Hogewey is a gated model village setting in Weesp in the Netherlands, created in 2009. It has been designed specifically as a pioneering care facility for elderly people with dementia. Here the aged do what you did in their lives before dementia, whatever that looked like, as normally as possible, whilst cared for by trained staff 24/7. People (patients — still people) move around and interact with the world and they require less medication. There are ugly ways of solving a complex challenge such as dementia and a beautiful way — it just requires compassion.
No. 6 Interface was founded by Ray C. Anderson and nvented tessellating carpet tiles. It is now a Fortune 100 company with a market cap of $1.53bn. Originally, Interface was not a good friend to the environment – its processes added to CO2 and pollution and its products could not be recycled. Ray decided things had to change, and went to his institutional investors to share his vision of a company that would be fully sustainable by 2020. The response was, “great, but can it make money?”. Interface not only makes money, it has now set its goal on becoming a restorative business pioneering carbon reduction in its products.
No. 7 Folkhem — Housing only built from wood. Those clever Swedes have a way to make beauty scale. Folkhem has the World’s First EPD-Certified Building. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products.
No. 8 Falcon Coffees — source green coffee from twenty producing countries, and work with coffee roasting companies all over the world. Founder Konrad Brits believes in creating a legacy. He wants business to be the solution. He embraces traceability, so that customers know exactly where their coffee comes from. They ensure growers are properly rewarded for their toil as we fret over our macchiatos and flat whites. People that work for Falcon are motivated to do something meaningful. “It’s about much more than just the paycheck” says Konrad.
No.9 Wind generation. What is a beautiful solution to our energy needs? Surely something that is regenerative. Can it scale to serve the needs of a few billion people? Ongoing cost reduction will soon make wind energy the least expensive source of installed electrical capacity, within a decade. A single sweep of their 269 foot blades generates enough energy for one households daily use. 73% of CFO’s now see the link between sustainability and financial performance.
No.10 Olafur Eliasson — is an artist, known for his extraordinary work with light. The Weather Project at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is perhaps his best known work. Olafur has a studio in Berlin where he employs a staff of 90. Everyday the staff sit down to eat freshly cooked vegetarian food. The kitchen is at the heart of the studio. The daily communal lunch is about showing respect and hospitality to his staff. “Cooking,” says Olafur, “is caring for others, it is a gesture of generosity and hospitality that functions as a social glue; it amplifies social relations and translates thoughts into food, into giving and sharing”.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that beautiful businesses are the future. They are proven to be attractive to employees, buyers and investors. My life’s mission is to help businesses discover their own unique beauty.
Alan Moore has designed and created everything from books to businesses. Working on six continents, he has shared his knowledge in the form of board and advisory positions at companies such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Coca Cola, workshops, speaking as well as teaching in institutions as wide ranging as MIT and Reading University, Sloan School of Management and INSEAD.