Picking Out Guiding Principles

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  • Picking out an actual “guiding principle” (something that guides how I make
    a decision) from a transcript is difficult. There is so much “brush” we need to clear away before we can see the “specimen trees” for what they are. Here is a perfect example.
    It’s a page from an architecture firm’s web brochure. The page is titled “Our
    philosophy.” http://www.philippetimmerman.com/ (You have to click “Philosophy”
    in the navigation to get to this page.)

    I’ll take it apart line by line.

    1. “Philippe Timmerman Architectural Designs [the company] is as much about an
      aesthetic attitude as it is about architecture and design. It is about defining
      and creating a …” This is an explanation/description of the company’s
      position in the market.
    2. “… personal lifeworld that bears the watermark of an individual style.” This is a philosophy, “Watermark every person’s lifeworld with their individual
      ” I’m not entirely sure I understood that right–I don’t know what a lifeworld is. Nevertheless, it is how they make decisions about watermarking their designs.
    3. “Which is why in every design, every concept, every search for an object or
      work of art, we strive to recreate that original sense of harmony that resonates
      through everything we are accustomed to calling ‘beautiful’.” This is an
      explanation of their process, but you could pull a behavior out of it thus:
      Recreate a sense of beauty, harmony in each design, concept, and search.” It describes each employee’s intent they create their designs.
    4. “This relentless commitment to purity of design implies a similarly
      meticulous attention to detail.” This is a paragraph joiner–something that
      references the first paragraph and introduces the new subject.
    5. “We believe that details are more than mere parts but reflections of the
      whole: the majesty and splendor of an entire palace is contained within a single
      door handle.” This is a philosophy, “Believe details (door handle) are
      reflections of the whole (palace).
    6. “A concept that permeates every corner and every layer of the design and
      finishing is not a superficial luxury but the natural outcome of a constancy to
      purpose and a consistency of perspective.” This is also an explanation of
      their process and a reassurance that the company is constant and consistent. You
      might be tempted to pull “be constant and consistent” out as a guiding
      principle, but that’s not how this is written. The intent it to reassure the
      potential client that the company is serious.
    7. “At [the company], everything begins with the notion of craftsmanship.” This is also an explanation of method.
    8. “We believe in craftsmanship simple because it stands the test of time.”
      This is a statement of fact: craftsmanship stands the test of time. We [the company] agree with this fact.
    9. “Knowledge and knowhow, of materials and techniques, form an unconditional
      but limitless source of inspiration for our designs.” Here is another behavior, “Find inspiration for designs in my knowledge of materials and
      ” It explains the method an employee of the company follows when looking for inspiration.
    10. “… designs that encapsulate a personal vision of the here and now, but
      which also embody an orientation towards the future.” This is a statement of
      fact that their designs encapsulate this orientation.
    11. “For over time, beautiful objects gain in beauty; houses develop character;
      furniture a certain patina; and works of art can but strengthen their force of
      presence.” These are several statements of fact. They may say they “believe
      in” these SOFs, but what do they do about them? We can’t include this set of phrases in a mental model because there is nothing here that guides a decision. (Note: Often the two words “believe in” are a red flag for something that is not really a guiding
    12. “[The company]’s international design office comprises a team of specialized
      architects, interior decorators, designers and art historians resulting in a
      dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives.” This describes their method,
      that they exchange ideas among the staff. See the next bit for the real guiding
    13. “… synergies which form the basis of our unique vision on architecture and
      design.” Well, this is not grammatically correct, but let’s go with the
      flow. They are stating another behavior here, “Exchange perspectives with our
      varied staff to gain unique vision.
      ” This should definitely be included in the mental model.
    14. “With an extensive portfolio of creations in countries such as France, Great
      Britain, Monaco, Italy and the United States, [the company] continues to stamp
      its mark on interior architecture in ways that are as diverse as our discerning
      clientele.” This is another reassurance to potential customers, stating that
      they have an extensive portfolio and discerning clients.

    Tally: Two Guiding Principles


    • “Watermark every person’s lifeworld with their individual style.”
    • “Believe details (door handle) are reflections of the whole (palace).”



    Tally: Three Behaviors


    • “Recreate a sense of beauty, harmony in each design, concept, and search.”
    • “Find inspiration for designs in my knowledge of materials and techniques.”
    • “Exchange perspectives with our varied staff to gain unique vision.”



    Put the pronoun “I” in front of each of those sentences and try them on for
    size. This statements run through the minds of the employees or partners at this architecture company as they execute design work.

    Also note: I use the term “guiding principle” here, but also use the words “belief” and “philosophy” in other places. I mean the same thing by them: something that guides decision-making.