“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” — Michael Porter
Enzo Mari often repeated “form is everything.” The Italian designer produced thousands of works, staying active until his death in 2020 from Covid-19. Mari’s work has a clarity and cohesiveness which cyber security often lacks.
“Enzo Mari is a total work of art,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist. “Everything went together with him.” Hans Ulrich Obrist, director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, was developing a retrospective on Enzo Mari before the pandemic hit. Mari was the master of individual form, and a master of collective form, unifying them a cohesive whole. One could spend a lifetime as CISO and still not build a security program as unified as Mari’s 16 animali puzzle.
“There is only one right form, not several,” Enzo Mari insisted. To get to the essence of the form, the designer must strip away everything. Everything. The designer must explicitly decide what the design is not, in order to make the design what it is. Take the Timor calendar. Compare it to your calendar. There’s no writing in the margins. There’s no tabs or colors, no holidays or birthdays, no reminders, and certainly no notifications. There is no excess. Timor is a calendar. Nothing else.
It is bold to say no. It takes courage to say what we will not do.
Suppose we are designing a software security program. For the purposes of this example, suppose we are lining it up to OWASP’s Software Assurance Maturity Model. SAMM has fifteen practices and forty-five objectives. Most security professionals would focus on getting a handful right. Most would speak loudly about what’s being done, and mumble about the objectives that are being ignored. Instead, we should channel Enzo Mari. Banging a fist on the table, we should declare which practices we will not do. By saying no, we create space and commitment. Only then can we build the committed practices, working towards something that fits like one of Mari’s puzzles.
Good security is clear about what it doesn’t do.
Obrist’s exhibition is currently on display at the Triennale Milano (Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli). It may be the last public showing. If Enzo Mari’s work can be defined by his declaration of what his work isn’t, then Mari’s last act is a defining one. Mari bequeathed his collection to the city under the condition that none of it be displayed for 40-years.
This article is part of a series on designing cyber security capabilities. To see other articles in the series, including a full list of design principles, click here.Posted by