We rarely think of it this way, but the leaders of organizations are designers too. By choosing the strategy, the budget, the culture and who they hire, they have more impact on whether good work is possible than anyone.

We’re often told it’s people with great ideas or passion that make good work happen, but there’s a hidden and formidable truth. What makes good or bad design happen anywhere depends on who has the most power.

Often there’s more than one person in power, and it’s their capacity to collaborate that defines what’s possible. Take, for example, the town of Missoula, Montana. It’s a small city with one very unusual characteristic: it has a city grid plan, but the central grid is oriented 45 degrees from the rest of the town. This makes it much easier to get lost, defeating a primary advantage of grids. What was the urban planner thinking? The answer is that there wasn’t just one plan, there were two, each led by factions that couldn’t agree.

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