It’s Buckminster Fuller’s most elegant thought. As powerful as it is succinct.
If I were to embrace one idea that would inform my team’s work for 2011, this comes the closest.
Among his many accomplishments, Fuller perfected – and popularized – the geodesic dome. Although he characterized himself as a misfit, and was expelled from Harvard twice, he spent his life as a college professor in the Midwest.
He erected his first geodesic dome building in 1949. Constructed of aluminum aircraft tubing with a vinyl-plastic skin, he proved the strength of his structure by hanging from the framework with several of his students.
A geodesic dome is remarkably strong. Whenever pressure is applied to any part of the structure it is distributed across all of the other parts. When a large expanse of land needs to be enclosed an engineer will often consider this structure for their project. (Examples of some of the 500,000 or so geodesic domes that have been constructed around the world can be found on the Buckminster Fuller Institute site.)
I was in the middle of a book of essays on Fuller when I was invited by Virginia Commonwealth University to create the design and identity program for the VCU Brandcenter – and its new building designed by Clive Wilkinson.
The geodesic design principle is simple: it elegantly leverages the strength of equilateral triangles to build domes of immense size and stability using a minimum of material. I believed this was a potent metaphor for the school – and a solution uniquely suited for an emerging age of networked communications where more and more people are linking with each other to work as one. Also, the geodesic system visually represents the ability to access and share information through the grapevine of a growing social network. As it grows, it gets stronger.
The organizations that will thrive in the new economy with be those which create systems that use the smallest amount of material, time and resources to inform and influence the greatest number of communities.
Which is a pretty beautiful way to think about our own business, too.