Picasso’s Bull: Inspiration for Streamlined Design Within Your Firm

Pablo Picasso’s 1946 “The Bull” is widely regarded as a masterpiece. It is a series of eleven lithographs that start with a realistic sketch of a bull. Initially, it becomes more muscular and lifelike. However, the trend then reverses. Step by step, Picasso removes everything which does not represent the bull’s essence. Each subsequent print finds a simpler sketch until the eleventh lithograph is a line drawing of the bull. Remarkably, the final bull retains its spirit as much as the original design.

This series is famous because it is a visual representation of the evolution toward simplicity. The concept is not only applicable to art. The bull’s progression can also serve as an analogy for designing business organizations and processes. Through continuous redesign, your organization has the potential to progress into a simpler, more streamlined configuration.

How Picasso’s Progression Can Mirror your Process Design

One definition of simple, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is as follows:

Simple: constituting a basic element: fundamental

The processes which make up the organization should only include tasks that contribute to the company’s ultimate goals of quality, well-being, and profit. Likewise, those same processes should also remove any tasks which are redundant, wasteful, or simply not “fundamental.”

In fact, the deliberate design of an organization follows Picasso’s steps. The growth of an organization adds processes and staff at a rapid pace. The goal at that point is to survive and meet objectives. Following the initial growth, however, the processes created to overcome the need for growth will likely be inefficient.

At this point, there are two available paths:

1) Keep going in the hope that things will start to sort themselves.

2) Alternatively, question the current structure and modify/create simple and elegant processes without unneeded, superfluous elements.

Simplifying an organization to its basic structure can be started at any time, but the sooner the process begins, the easier it is. The goal is to boil all the main processes down to their essence. Part of this includes the removal of duplicated tasks and unnecessary processes. It also requires analyzing the way everything is currently done to ensure the simplicity of your systems and processes.

Some of the main culprits you will find are:

  • Double entry of the same information

  • Too many layers of bureaucracy

  • Unnecessary steps

  • Going back and forth for a single task

  • Two people that are responsible for the same activity

(For more information on process design, read How to Use Diagrams to Implement Processes in Your Business and How to Organize Your Business by Types of Processes).

Once the inefficiencies are identified, you can focus on streamlining and improving the firm’s systems.

[Photo: Eric Welch/Unsplash]

[Photo: Eric Welch/Unsplash]

Try it Out

The quest to achieve the essence of the bull is never-ending. Business is messy; new tasks appear all the time. Achieving simplicity requires constant questioning and deliberate, recurrent inquiries into the actual state of the company’s systems.

It is worth the investment, however. The result will be a streamlined, flexible organization with strength and resilience.

This post was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated and recirculated for 2022.


Pamela Ayuso is an author and the co-founder and CEO of Celaque. She is a real estate entrepreneur and developer who has executive leadership experience in two of the most successful real estate developers in Honduras — managing operations at Alianza and leading Celaque. Celaque develops office and residential buildings and manages a broad portfolio of properties. Pamela’s focus is on growing Celaque into a model for the 21st-century company.

In addition to her role as CEO at Celaque, Pamela is the author of Amazon best-selling book, Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century. She offers practical business and personal development insights for other entrepreneurs and business leaders on her blog and LinkedIn. Her husband and her three wonderful daughters inspired the story of her first children’s book, Alicia and Bunnie Paint a Mural.       

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