thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Lessons from Frank Lloyd Wright

By on July 7, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright’s success in architecture provides an interesting parallel to how organizations can achieve customer-centric success, as well.

My wife and I toured Wright’s home and office in Oak Park, IL, this weekend and experienced the surrounding neighborhood, including many homes that Wright had designed. It was inspiring and beautiful at the same time. Since I am always looking for parallels with customer ideas, I learned tremendously from Wright’s brilliant approach and simple, but legendary, style of design.

Wright believed in using open spaces (no doors where possible) and wide views of the outside. He used casement windows which open fully to the outside, for example, rather than traditional windows which leave half of their space closed even when opened. Everything flows to the outside. He also designed to allow lots of natural light inside. Wright’s work embodied the spirit of openness that successful customer connections require.

He also believed that buildings (like customer-centric companies) should fit into their environments, rather than the other way around. Wright said, “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill--belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.” Included in this sharing of space is a union for a single purpose—just as the purpose of organizations should complement their customers' needs.

FLW PreservationTrustThe graphic with this post is the logo that Wright created for his architectural practice. It consisted of a Celtic cross inside a circle inside a square. Not only were these symbols both beautiful and simple, but there has been speculation that the logo was adopted from markers used to guide travelers. Undoubtedly he was trying to develop a new, more human, center for looking at the world, which serves as a great customer philosophy.

Wright described the essence this way: “A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart.” He believed that “mechanization best serves mediocrity.” By 1908, he was using the word ‘organic’ to describe his approach to integrate space and function into a coherent whole.

Frank Lloyd Wright worked a lifetime to develop the architectural “character” of his buildings, designed to achieve flexibility and abundance. His passion for a harmonious relationship between design and function provides a great lesson for customer-centricity.

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