Task and Inspiration

A common theme in leadership writing- and on this site- is that of balancing task with vision.

This morning NPR ran a piece about murals commissioned for the Justice Department during the depression era. While different artists were commissioned and different scenes depicted, they have one theme in common. Each mural is a reminder of why the DOJ exists, positioned to be a constant reminder to those who work there.

Rather than the standard iconography used in most depictions of legal themes, the leaders at the time chose to make the art a constant message of the impact that justice should have on society and in this case, the nation. By putting the murals in the place where the tasks happen- the DOJ ensured that there would
be a clear and powerful reminder of the reasons that even mundane tasks such as research and administration are important.

A daily reminder of the larger reason an organization exists goes a long way towards both productivity and focus.  Of course, putting the art up does not guarantee that those working in the building will be mindful. But it certainly is a more powerful and endemic image than a set of uninspired (and uninspiring) “corporate values” posted in the lobby.

Sad to say, the building is not open to the public, which is in itself an odd irony.   You can either read or listen to the NPR piece here. Included at the link are samples of the artwork and some history on the project.