Apartment Therapy on Domestic Policy

goo.bmpDon’t be evil. These are the words to the final paragraph of Google’s “Owner’s Manual,” released yesterday as the company prepares to offer itself up and let the public walk through its financial doors. In addition, the founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, lay down a strict domestic policy which includes providing excellent benefits for their employees, providing their search service for free to the world, staying open to risk and innovation, and not being afraid to suffer short term setbacks. They are introducing us to their home, in which they plan to live a long time. I find it really inspiring.

Warren Buffet also plays a part in their manual. He is the role model, and the chief influence behind their desire to keep tight control over their company and not be swayed by the short term, profit focused attention of the stock market. This weekend, Mr. Buffet is literally inviting all of his investors over to his house in Omaha for a party. One of the world’s most successful investors, his house is in good order, and he throws a good party. Some friends of mine have gone a number of times and are on their way right now. His big rule of thumb? Take care of your home.

But what does this have to do with apartments, design or interiors?? A lot. A company is a home in the same way your apartment is your home. To be successful requires good, clear domestic policy. A home requires rules and boundaries in order to take care of its own and provide a safe space for people and children to grow. Most successful homes that I know have just the same healthy skepticism for the world outside their door as Google does, and are better off for it.

Some see good homes as fun, social and full of lively energy, while bad ones are quiet, beige, and rigid. The truth lies in neither of these poles; it is in the middle: strong boundaries and lively interaction. By boundaries I mean the sorts of things we do to take care of and respect the home, such as taking off our shoes before entering, calling before visiting a neighbor, or helping with the dishes after dinner. Boundaries also are needed in the design of rooms. Too many clients don’t define their rooms. They eat in the living room, work in the dining room, and wonder why their desk is a mess. We enjoy a room more when it has a clear purpose and is outfitted well for it. We want to live in a house where the office is well organized, the living room is comfortable and the kitchen is inspiring. Define your rooms!

Enough about rules and boundaries! What about risk and creativity? What Google knows is that there is no profitable risk and creativity without being secure in your own house. A solid foundation is vital for creativity over the long term. Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Bill Gates, Steven Jobs? When they took risks and invented, they weren’t worried about where their next meal was coming from or where they were going to sleep that night. A child who feels secure with its mother is the child who will risk crawling the furthest away.

Your home, like any new company is a vulnerable and beautiful thing, with energy and promise stretching out before it. To flourish, you need a strong domestic policy: one that has clear boundaries, takes care of family first, allows for risk and creativity, and plans for the long term. With all of this in place, you will be as wildly successful as those two google eyed fellows. I guarantee it. MGR