Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Garden of Dreams

NY Botanical Gardens - fall colors

Here is the simplest yet most powerful of analogies.  Success in business or a career is very much like success in gardening. 

I’ve observed that companies that dominate markets consistently provide surprising breakthroughs and advances in processes or new products.  And when they do, it is always attributed to the brilliance of some executive or the strength of a single breakthrough idea that is put upon a pedestal.  Yet, behind the scenes, there is an environment which nurtures business needs and resembles a greenhouse - a garden of projects and ideas – some close to being harvested, some just seedlings that may or may not amount to much.  Ideas are carefully cultivated by gardeners that have learned their craft over a lifetime.  These gardeners take joy in the gardening process – planning, planting, and then the many patient, nurturing steps necessary before the harvesting of the fruits.   A master gardener respects the patient process of planning, planting, feeding, watering, pruning, and harvesting of a garden.  The harvest is but a stage in the gardening or business process.

Less successful gardeners and business people employ a different process.   They don’t have many ideas planted.  They plant seeds in frenzy when times are tough and a quick harvest is needed.  They take care of only the seedlings they think will yield the biggest or quickest harvest.  They neglect gardening when times are good because there are too many other priorities.  They see gardening as an add-on to the more important day to day jobs of keeping the front end of the business running smoothly.  They prune plants and eliminate weeds only when the neglected plants are choking.  Their focus is outward and lay blame on environmental hindrances to growth.

Examples of the successful gardening approach:
  1. An artist that explores multiple themes without regard to final outcomes until a project takes shape
  2. The consumer products companies that consistently fills their funnel with exploratory concepts.  Then nurtures and prunes them in a clear process.
  3. A department within an organization that focuses time to find more effective ways to streamline process, cut costs and build employee morale
  4. The retailer trying out new ideas to revise in-store layouts or expand lines of goods carried
  5. The R&D department that incorporate moonlighting projects into the performance objectives of researchers to keep people fresh
  6. The executive with many personal and professional contacts cultivated to mentor and develop herself personally 
To be successful, you have to become a gardener.  You don’t have to call it that, but there is no other way to consistently be successful.  You have to embrace, empower the process.  You have to have many ideas at different stages of development. You cannot force projects to grow more quickly than they sometimes will or neglect those you don’t care about.  And when the garden is well tended and full of promising plants, the harvest can reward you abundantly.

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