This summer, I’ve purposefully dedicated more time for recreational reading, with an eclectic list that ticks like a metronome between fiction/hobbies (e.g, Cutting for Stone) and marketing/business (e.g.,The Checklist Manifesto, which I highly recommend). I’m fortunate to be married to a bibliophile who carves through books like a hungry Vegan through a field roast. The gems that Lori plops onto my desk are never those I would have spotted for myself.
She recently surprised me with Yards, by Billy Goodnick, a hipster California landscape designer. I’m a hobbyist gardener who’s always looking for tips and ideas on how to enhance our urban yardscape. Despite my intent to merely skim the book, Goodnick reeled me in with his colorful language and cocky irreverence for traditional garden design.
As I dug through the chapters, I became captivated by (1) his methodologies for defining the garden space and (2) his insistence on weighting the early design process over the urge to immediately plant. How refreshing!
Most non-professionals (myself included) head straight for the garden center to grab the most exotic plants, but Goodnick instead encourages a more strategic approach: mapping the use and traffic flow of the yard, exploring multiple design alternatives, and patiently testing environmental conditions (sun, soil, water). Then, only when the groundwork has been laid, should you begin to consider the right and desirable plants to lay in the ground.
I’d translate his common-sense approach as roughly 50% strategy / usability and 50% tactics. What thrilled me most (geek that I am) was how well I’ve seen the same design philosophy used in business:
- In marketing, the best campaigns are designed carefully, customer-focused and specific in time and metrics (using a SMART approach, for example).
- In new product development, you will have fewer delays and far lower costs with an emphasis on planning and solidifying requirements in the early stage of the product design process.
- And in process improvement, the most experienced practitioners know that without a well defined problem statement and detailed charter, your project stands little chance of moving beyond the first tollgate.