Hullabaloo aside, the very British Royal Wedding in April 2011 appealed to us mightily.

In thinking about its one-year anniversary:  Enjoying some of the U.K.’s most marvelous customs, like tea and scones, was one benefit.  As was the visual spectacle, and our tacit participation in an unusually happy occasion.  [Okay, we could skip the 4 a.m. wake-up … but that’s beside the point.]

An underlying theme, best expressed in the parade of idiosyncratic hats and fascinators,  was the notion of “bespoke,” that nation’s elegant tradition of customizing apparel and accessories to customers’ needs.  Today, it’s become an expensive tradition, one that few can afford. 

On the other hand, bespoke speaks to us.  Especially in this world of templates and patterns and other forms of easy “let’s just use this example” replication. 

We find that companies and clients often ask for models to follow during change events.  In launching a branding (or re-branding) initiative.  At the kick-off of an enterprise-wide IT implementation.  For a review of HR programs.  During times of corporate combinations, like mergers and divestitures.  And so on. 

Those same-old, same-old models somehow are incorporated into every activity, all change events.  Consultants and employees alike tend to use them as more than patterns, sticking almost slavishly to these guides without much adaptation.  All far from the original intent.

 Let’s go back to the first definition of “template.”  In the 1600s, the French templet referred to a “weaver’s stretcher” or “building for worship” (i.e., temple).  Only 200 years later did its meaning shift into the more modern pattern for shaping a piece of work.  Even Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson identified template as a strand of uniquely individual DNA that serves as a pattern for the synthesis of a protein or nucleic acid.

Unfortunately, far from providing a base or foundation for change work, the template becomes our go-to for communications and design (among other purposes).  It rules our world, usually with little room for tailoring it to project needs and audience segments.   Instead of guiding us, it begins to define what we do and how we do it.

Why not return to the art of bespoke, using templates as building blocks only?  It’s certainly not the secret of life, as the two Nobel Prize winners claimed about their DNA discovery.  But bespoke can change our work – and our results, for the better.