“Style is the fashioning of power, the restraint of power. The administrator with a sense of style hates waste, the engineer with a sense of style economizes his material, the artisan with a sense of style prefers good work. Style is the ultimate morality of mind.”

Professor Whitehead quoted in Mary Parker Follett ‘professional standards developed and effected through group organization’


 “We can never wholly separate the human from the mechanical side .. you all see every day that the study of human relations in business and the study of operating are bound up together.”

Mary Parker Follett, Dynamic Administration


We are surrounded by people who do things because the rules tell them to do so, a book told them to do so, some program or process tells them to do so, or simply because it’s the way “I have been told to do so.” This is one of those weird situations in which they are not wrong and wrong at the same time. Its kind of a mechanical way of going about things and it offers structural replication of things that are at the core of offering steady value day in and day out. Conversely, there are people with style. Maybe call it craftsmanship. Call it what you want, but it is style which unearths the potential in any situation in which mechanics are grinding out outcomes and consequences. And noodle that thought as much as you want, but be sure of one thing – humans, and human relations, is the only thing that can offer style. Technology cannot.

Which leads me to the enemy of style.

Technology, AI and data included, are the ultimate immorality of the mind. Let me be clear by ‘immoral’ in this case. It isn’t about ethics, its about stripping away any style. It’s the commodification of doing, thinking and attitudes (if not value creation). Algorithm design for mass usage tends to flatten. Lets call it digital flattening and data flattening. Style, associated with technology, demands both predictive and emergent paths and needs to purposefully encourage non-flattening. Style acknowledges the natural arc of flattening and creates a counterweight to that flattening. I am not suggesting style crafts an ideology (or tautology), but it can certainly enhance the desired behavior/attitudes and tamp down the less-than-desired aspects.

Which leads me to stupidity (a less-than-desired aspect).

A collection of people can be stupider than an individual, in fact, even more stupid, and, an individual can be stupider than a collection of people. The trick is always to find when one is smarter than the other.

Style demands some smartness, but business (and society) encourages people to be stupid. Now. To be clear. I am not suggesting people are stupid, just that we are encouraged to ‘follow along’ even when it feels stupid to do so. Hence, we lean in, far too often, on stupid; not smart. And then there is technology whispering in our ears.

The new patterns of interaction that are emerging in digital environments often blur the boundaries between self and system and between self and others, yet, we would be mistaken if we did not recognize the individual perspective, the “I”, anchors the sense of experience in conceptual thinking and the collective (connection with others) anchors our sense of meaning. I imagine my point is that while making a point about stupid and smart the real point is that the key to style will always be a connection, and interaction, of self and others and by recognizing that a business decreases the odds it will be stupid and increases the odds it will be smart. In fact, I would argue, that it is within style that a business, a group of people, or any system in general, becomes ‘smart.’ Ponder.

Written by Bruce