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Olmsted’s 10 rules of design

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Frederick Law Olmsted, besides having an awesome beard, is the recognized father of American landscape architecture.

His fingerprints are all over iconic American green spaces, including Central Park, the Biltmore estate and the grounds of the White House and (above) the U.S. Capitol building.

Here are the first three:

  1. Respect “the genius of a place.” This is a fancier way of saying plant the right plants.
  2. Subordinate details to the whole. Each piece of your design (bricks, trees, grass) adds up to a much larger whole.
  3. The art is to conceal art. The people who experience your landscape shouldn’t realize they’re experiencing it at all.

You can read the rest of them here.


January 18th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

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Trade in the rule book for guidelines

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Do run your company with an iron fist? Berate employees for every little mistake? Live and die by the rule book?

A laundry list of rules isn’t practical and it’s not good for a company’s culture. Mike Figliuolo, founder of thoughtLEADERS recommends trading in the rule book for a judgment-based approach that can be applied to any situation. Not only is it more flexible, but more applicable because every tough decision, every broken rule involves different factors and circumstances.

So what should you think about? Figliuolo says:

How do you articulate performance standards in your organization? Is it a long list of rules, standards, metrics, and infractions or goals? Or is it a set of behavioral guidelines you want your team to adhere to?

I’d submit that the former is particularly difficult to manage and you might want to ask your team members how they feel about working in such an environment.

The latter is harder to manage because you *will* have people who deviate from the guideline (because it’s not overly specific and it’s subject to interpretation). In the long run, though, you’ll create a culture where those standards become the norm. People feel empowered to act within those guidelines and their sense that you trust them goes up dramatically.

Take some time to evaluate how your team functions and how you set standards. If you can loosen the collar a little for your folks, they’ll operate more freely and the environment of “gotcha!” can eventually disappear.


You hired employees because they demonstrated they have certain knowledge and/or experience in the green industry or in sales, marketing, bookkeeping. As long as they’re not harming other employees or harming your bottom line, allow them to flexibly do the work for which you hired them. With a solid set of guidelines that let employees work within certain boundaries, you may even discover better ideas and more efficient processes.




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May 19th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

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