Paying Attention - The Lesson of Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said, “God is in the details.” For architecture, that is a very understandable statement—and very much appreciated by everyone who has ever entered a building with the expectation that said building would remain standing and not collapse on their heads.
But what does a statement like that mean for the rest of us, whose responsibilities do not involve something as vital as public safety? I would submit the implications are the same. Paying attention to small details, no matter what our work is, is an incredibly good way to do good work, serve our customers and develop or maintain the reputation for a job well done.
Many years ago I was having lunch with a client. Our conversation turned to feelings about our jobs, and I said something to the effect that I felt my job was important, but I was not curing cancer or teaching children so it was important to keep thing in perspective. What I had meant was that while I took my job very seriously, I was not going to let each small obstacle negatively affect my entire life. I, quite frankly, did not see my job as having the same importance of a doctor or teacher.
My client, and friend, simply replied, “Kelly, God loves even the milkman.” I asked her to expand on that, and she told me that no matter what our work is, it holds importance in the world. That conversation has resonated with me for many years, and here is why.
Even though our work may not have the impact of a building that stands for hundreds of years...or curing a disease...or changing the lives of children, we should each day approach our work as if it has vital importance to those around us. Because it does.
Sometimes the work that we produce communicates information of vital importance to potentially millions of people. And even if we are “just” producing a pizza coupon, or a newsletter about the goings on of a twins club, the work stands as important. And the better job we do at it, the better the result is for everyone.
So, read that email twice to make sure you got all the details. Go over the parameters of the project with your team. Make sure they understand the deadline and how important it is. When you keep your head in the game and pay close attention, great things will happen. Your work will be better, your clients will be happier, and your reputation will be above reproach. Everyone wins.