MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Getting the setting right for success​


The tinge of privilege that infects Tyler Brule's arrogance may divert attention from what I think are some very appropriate observations about the settings where we do our work.

There are things that we all sense immediately about a place, its light, its materials, its people, a chair. Just as immediately, if the feel is not aligned, we feel our attention move off target. Our mood, and no doubt those of the others we are with, shifts. What we eventually accomplish in our meeting seems diminished afterwards.

Brule's whole account about a recent meeting reduced by the wrong chair is delightful to read in its entirety (here). I can't, however, resist offering a portion of his rant –


There’s nothing the Fast Lane likes more than the following: doing things right the first time; discovering cosy, compact neighbourhoods dotted with well-run independent businesses; a good train journey accompanied by a few choice friends or colleagues, a fine bottle of wine and a satchel full of favourite magazines; fine residential architecture that favours function and useful materials; Tokyo, with its winning mix of food, service, retail and general wackiness; an immaculate Italian beach club not yet discovered by boisterous Russians; buttons, dials, knobs and switches; good lighting (dimmers on everything); airlines and hotels that get the basics right and don’t dazzle with unnecessary distractions and fussy details. And, finally, individuals who possess the commonsense gene should be encouraged.
At the same time, this column isn’t terribly fond of “foam”, “mist” and “fog” as descriptions for dishes on the menus of restaurants hoping for a Michelin star – these elements are best left along the coast, where they belong. Supersize prams, and the people who push them while talking on the phone and drinking a bucket of coffee, are generally a public menace. Cafés where people are plugged into headphones and staring at laptop screens rather than flirting with neighbours or watching the world go by are frightening and alienating.
Tech-industry hype is exhausting (was a news alert about the share price of a social media company really necessary at 8am Hong Kong time on Thursday?) and needs to cool down. This column also has little time for hosts who show up to meetings with drinks for themselves but fail to offer anything to their guests; a new generation of workers who aren’t aware that it’s much easier to pick up the phone to resolve a misunderstanding rather than sending 50 emails about it; the colour purple (closely followed by teal); goat’s cheese; watermelon; new socks that sag and shirts that have the second-to-top button in the wrong place so they gape and wilt. And, of course, people who don’t possess the commonsense gene