Saturday, 2 October 2010

What could we learn from the Inca architects?

The Incas were incredibly skilled architects and stonemasons who built stuff to last with precisely cut and shaped stones that fit closely together – like people in an effective team.

They built massive constructions with unparalleled seismic resistance and high static and dynamic steadiness to keep them stable during an earthquake - without mortar. The separate pieces moved during an earthquake, only to lay down in exactly the right place afterwards.

Following three key value themes of precision, functionality and austerity, the stones were cut to perfection and interlocked. They remain today so close that a knife cannot be inserted between the joins. The Inca stonemasons were there long before Mies Van der Rohe and his philosophy of “less is more”.

Hatunrumiyoc - Twelve-Angle Stone - Cusco
The 12-angled stone in Hatum Rumiyoc Street in Cusco, Peru
In terms of resources, they had no iron tools, no written language, no draft animals and no wheel. But a major contribution to the skill of the stonemasons was the human and social organisation necessary to maintain the great numbers of skilled and creative people.

I think there is a lot to be said about re-discovering simple structures in business too and that’s what elegant consultancy should strive to achieve.

Those Inca architects could teach us a lot about working with a client to plan, construct and maintain the long term  strategies and structures to enable their business to grow through their people – and be flexible enough to withstand the odd tremor and weather the winds of change! 

What might ancient structures teach you?