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The Starbucks Experience

17 years ago

Tony has blessed us in the past by providing a link to a great little, twice-weekly newsletter from Robert Genn, a Canadian painter. Although his musings are targeted specifically at the arts world, much can also be applied to gardening and life in general.

I could not help but be struck by a sentence in today's offering: "It's hard for some of us to believe, but more than one person has a stake in the outcome of our work."

Is it any wonder that one of my pet peeves is the oft-heard: "As long as I like it, that is all that matters!"

Mr. Genn also offers a delightful, short essay for today which also features the five principles that the Starbuck Company flourishes under:

1. Make it your own

2. Everything matters

3. Surprise and delight

4. Embrace resistance

5. Leave your mark

Is there something here we can (or should) apply to our musings about design?

Thanks again, Tony.


Here is a link that might be useful: Newsletter Link

Comments (10)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Could be a combination of Boldly going where one never has before ( but should) and a Tony Roberts empowerment speech.
    I like this list...and the newsletter, thanks for sharing.

    Im finding even in doing my own gardens, I was becoming a little ambiguous with concepts and it deinitely unnerved certain clients. Can't say it's about making it your own.....except in your own "brush stroke" shining through. It still becomes the HO's garden. Thus i imagine that's where the leave your mark comes into play, without putting up a sign thats says..."Designed by..."

    Looking forwward to seeing the more indepth postings that should follow this beginning.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks Dan. It is a good list and could most certainly apply to any creative pursuit, it is perhaps surprising that it was made for what most would consider a mundane job, which is perhaps the point. When you look at a list of opposites it makes complete sense.

    1. Make it your own - just doin' my job.
    2. Everything matters - whatever.
    3. Surprise and delight - same old same old.
    4. Embrace resistance - when the going gets tough - give in.
    5. Leave your mark - follow the crowd.
      I particularly like "Embrace resistance" as I believe that working under constraints, lack of inspiration, time, money, space or what ever it might be often brings out the best.
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  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks, Ironbelly, for the referral to Robert Genn's letters. It is also a very interesting community to tap into. I haven't read the latest one yet, but some of the back issues are quite thought-provoking.

    But even without having read it, as one of the people probably guilty of saying "As long as I like it, that is all that matters!" I will take you up on the discussion of stakeholders in good design.

    I'm not even sure I agree with the quote, depending on the application. Stakeholders are those affected by the outcome, and there are definitely situations in which homeowners are the only stakeholders in their landscape design, barring only their successors on the land, and assuming they don't create "downstream" effects for neighbours etc. to deal with. But if no one ever sees it, or if all they ever have to do is look at it...? I remember having an argument with someone years ago whether you became a stakeholder in a parking lot if you parked in it only once.

    I've referred before to a homeowner near me who puts huge spikes of artificial flowers in his or her hellstrip planting, and I've since encountered another who put silk and plastic greenery outside. Does anyone other than the homeowner really have enough stake in that decision to object to it? I could only see it from a property value standpoint, and that, it seems to me, can be as easily negatively affected by what you might call good design where it is not the norm as by bad design or a freakin' mess where good design predominates.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    IB, Ink, et al,

    I would have to go with "everthing matters" as design is impactual in the wholistic sense, neh?

    Musashi said it well..."pay attention, even to trifles".


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Interestingly Robert Genn picked "embrace resistance" as the topic of his latest newsletter and flesshes it out thus:
    Share the joy of your gift.
    Seek honest evaluation from authoritative sources.
    Understand that divergent opinions deserve study.
    Find and nurture symbiotic friendships.
    Delegate to others with wisdom and delicacy.
    Build self-confidence through personal processes.
    Keep a foot in the real world.
    Some of these could equally apply to participating in this forum. Meanwhile: Sabi returns or is that return of the native? And another thing how do I get my text to appear in the forum as it does in the message I type, that is itemized by line with paragraphs and so on?

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Whenever I see a list of noble but vague corporate principles, I wonder how much of it represents inspirational philosophy that positively stimulates employees in the real world, and how much of it is high-flown ego-stroking for the top brass.

    I'd wager that the absolute #1 principle for the Starbucks Co. is:

    1. Make a latte bucks.

    Be that as it's interesting that while Ironbelly reiterates his frustration with the idea that self-gratification is the ultimate goal for so many gardeners, two of the listed "Starbucks Principles" fall right into that line of thinking: "Make it your own" and "Leave your mark". "Embrace resistance" might have some relevance based on one of more of the definitions others have suggested - but in the corporate sense it probably means "Seem to accept criticism with grace while deflecting it into harmless channels".

    "Surprise and delight" is a good one and fits in well with what I once described as creating a sense of anticipation - the idea that something wonderful is just around the next bend.

    The only precept that doesn't belong in the lexicon of the not-for-profit garden designer is "Everything matters". Far better to substitute something like "Maximize your pleasure" or "Take time out to enjoy what you've created."

    P.S. Ink: You can create paragraphs by hitting the Return key twice.size>

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, that is certainly an askew interpretation of enlightened opportunity, Eric. I prefer to believe that adherence to a proven set of values actually enables one to acquire an uncommon level of performance --- an uncommon level simply because that personal trait is so uncommon. Perhaps an old IronBelly Axiom applies: Exceptional people are not normal." -- (Consider the many interpretations.)

    Speaking of interpretations: On the surface, "Maximize your pleasure" or "Take time out to enjoy what you've created." will garner some ready agreement. You will even obtain a modicum of accord from me. However, I find as much enjoyment during the creation process as I do in taking time out after the fact. Where these types of feel good justifications begin to falter is when they become tempered by persons who choose not to adhere to a proven set of values like, "Everything matters".

    I can remember being asked to view some gorgeous dahlias a few years back. The gardener raved on and on about their beauty. They were, in fact, superb examples of floriculture. It was just something about the staking of the plant Perhaps it DID matter that the staking system consisted of old 2 X 4Âs and panty hose.

    Perhaps a little background into my pet peeve of the oft-heard: "As long as I like it, that is all that matters!" Whenever I hear this example of intellectual laziness, it automatically conjures up an ugly memory of a garden that I once visited on a multi-garden tour. This gardener had a shady, damp property with several large, rather steep, off-camber slopes. She had laid some small flagstones for paths. However, she just flopped them on the surface of the ground without any preparation of adequate base.  It really doesnÂt matter, ya know, because SHE liked it and that is all that matters!  As the tour proceeded and several, younger able-bodied people began to slip and fall on this "good enough" installation, most older people abandoned looking at this area and went around the property, avoiding this section. A second bus load of folks appeared and leading the pack were some older ladies. As one of the ladies lay at the bottom of the slope with blood from the bump on her head combining with the blood root plants growing beside the path (how appropriate), many folks began to complain about the slick, wobbly flagstones. When it was suggested to the owner that she really should have the flagstones properly installed, her reply was the classic, "As long as I like it, that is all that matters!" GrrrrrÂ

    Sorry. Everything really DOES matter. My stand on gardening is in full agreement with the title of Thomas ChurchÂs book, Gardens Are For People. (*** Note that "people" is plural.) As part of my personal set of values, I hold that gardens are meant to be shared, not coveted. In fact, if you wish to supercharge and elevate the advice, "Take time out to enjoy what you've created." I say, "Share what youÂve created." It is only a little thing... but it seems to matter.

    IronBelly  on a Sunday morning rant.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I think we'd all agree that significant safety issues and matters of law trump personal preference (notably when the gardener is inviting visitors to tour the property).

    But far more often in this forum the discussions about what matters in garden design boil down to likes and dislikes that may or may not be codified in someone's disputed set of principles. You, for instance, have repeatedly dismissed posters' concerns about color matching as being insignificant when compared to other design issues (I'm in basic agreement with you there).

    Perhaps then, we should alter the Starbucks Principle of Gardening #2 to read Everything matters, but some things don't matter very much. :)

    In the end, once we've dispensed with issues like the elderly skidding off our slick paths onto their noggins or careless diggers rupturing gas lines, the only thing that really matters is that we derive what we want from our gardens - relaxation, stimulation, Meditative Peace or whatever. If we're told that every little detail Matters and that we shouldn't be content until it's attended to, gardening becomes very much like work and its purpose is defeated.

    Just yesterday the featured garden in our local paper was a herbalist's garden. As pictured, one might find it pedestrian, lacking in focus or contrasting elements and not especially well-maintained. For its owner, it was obviously highly useful and a source of pride and teaching capacity. It's not the sort of herb garden I'd grow given the opportunity (I like those semi-formal olde English walled gardens) but my opinion in this case is not terribly relevant if the owner is happy.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ahh, yes... another incongruity. No doubt, garden design is rift with conflicting advice: Moist but well-drained. You need consistency but yet need elements of surprise. Everything matters but don't major in the minor.

    So much conflicting advice leads to much confusion. Perhaps this is a causal factor leading to the general lack of design understanding. Maybe we should also throw in that landscape design is not at all about what most people THINK it is.

    I consider there to be a dividing line where one can begin to believe they have finally gotten a grasp of "things". It happens when you begin to think about a garden design as accommodation for people. Plants, fascinating as they are, also start to be used as a tool to enhance the human experience. Novices falsely believe that the purpose of landscape design is to accommodate plants specifically, making garden beds to plant things in.

    I find using plants, rather than merely obtaining and planting them is so much more satisfying. Rather than succumbing to an emotional purchase, I prefer to use design of plants to create an emotional experience. I have said it several times before on this forum that the very people who claim to love plants so much are doing the plants a disservice by failing to present them well. Show me a plant and it is nice. Show me a display of the same plant and now we have something!

    Harkening back to Tonys thread, Which came first?; my answer is that thought came way before flowers. Gardening practices and plant availability have certainly changed over the years. One could also make the case that garden design has largely become a purchasing and physical endeavor. Abandoned in the fray is gardening as an intellectual pursuit. Thoughtful design is well, never thought about. I think that matters.

    Design unfortunately requires more brains than a shopping cart. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the thinking Ms. Derviss used to emphatically state on this forum: "Cute is not a technical term!" On other threads, we can blather on about the wonders of Miss Rs landscape design checklist. All that she has really done is expand her "Starbucks short list". She realizes that essentially, everything does matter of course, some things more than others.


  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    "I find using plants, rather than merely obtaining and planting them is so much more satisfying. Rather than succumbing to an emotional purchase, I prefer to use design of plants to create an emotional experience. I have said it several times before on this forum that the very people who claim to love plants so much are doing the plants a disservice by failing to present them well. Show me a plant and it is nice. Show me a display of the same plant and now we have something! "

    So my education in all of what I have done the lastcouple years springs forth like this....The hardscape, the plantings, the sloping, thedrainage, the faciltating all that ther is and can be is like a play. All the participants in their appropriate positions for the this case seasonal to season. IB you do make it seem feasible and thoughtful. Thanks