Grow your Own

Very few gardens are the same.

They may be a similar size, maybe on a modern development where most of the houses look similar.

But the gardens are unique.

They reflect the personalities of those who tend them.

The pots, the types of flower, the layout.

Those who tend them like to spend time there, enjoying what they have planted and nurtured. It helps them feel whole.

At what point did we decide that “work” had to be different?

We benchmark, we measure, we compare, we run scared of variation from what we’ve planned. We fear being judged.

Gardeners revel in difference, and unexpected arrivals. When the dahlia they grew turns out to be a different colour from that they had anticipated, they don’t fire it, they just plant it somewhere else in the garden where it fits.

Weather happens. Forecasts are usually approximately right, but precisely wrong and every now and again we get a real storm and have to repair the damage it caused, but we don’t blame anyone.

And when the sun shines, and all is in bloom, we sit down and enjoy it, until the autumn, and time to enjoy preparing it for the winter we know is coming.

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”

Tim Gallwey, from The Inner Game of Tennis

When we run our businesses, our careers and our lives in expectation of what it might be one day (often measured through very narrow criteria) rather than enjoy what it is today, and take pleasure in what it might one day be, we pay a heavy price. Our lives have an expiration date. Each day matters, and mortgaging it to the future generates burden rather than joy.

We can run our businesses and careers in the same way as we garden. For the love ot it.

Wonder, appreciation and joy are not restricted to snatched moments or holidays, unless we choose to live that way.

A quiet revolution

It’s been said that we don’t know there’s a revolution going on ’till it’s over.

Up until that point, we see anomalies, departures from our familiar norms and are slow to come to terms that this is the new normal.

We can see this at a variety of levels, although where I am noticing it most is in the relatively mundane day to day working of organisations, particularly small and medium sized ones.

They don’t have to be very old – twenty years is plenty – for those who founded them to have lived through a quiet but profound change in the relationship they have with new talent.

Twenty year ago, organisations still had the power to choose. More people wanted jobs than there were jobs available. Clear job definitions and qualifications gave them a menu of people to choose from. Over the last twenty years, those jobs have become commodities. Lots of people can do them, from many locations, for ever decreasing prices. And where that isn’t cheap enough, machine learning, AI and automation steps up to the plate.

Lots of options for employers, but the results are increasingly asymptotic. Price may go down, but quality does not go up. Same output for lower input.

Which means that we now have a whole new tribe to deal with. Not just some easy label like “millennial”, but a whole new demographic. People not just with skills, but opinions and purpose. People who want to do something unique, something that matters, something to be remembered for. People with a voice.

Artists.

Artists comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They are a real challenge to employ on conventional terms, because it’s not about the conventional metrics of pay and conditions. They are looking for fellow travellers.

Artists are super empowered. Given the right vehicle, the right environment and the right company they can can help those they work with to achieve “escape velocity” from the mundane to the remarkable. to escape the “soggy middle” of price based competition to building loyal followers who get what they are about.

Look around you. How many artists do you see? Those who do not have to be with you, but are there from choice because it’s where they can do the work they want to. Those who will make a real difference to other than the cost base. Those who are in a race to the top, not the bottom, of their potential.

If you don’t see any, then the revolution may just be passing you by.

The people who can make the difference you need have a choice.

..….and in the way these things work, this from Seth Godin just dropped into my inbox.

Dependence, Independence, Interdependence and Permission

Most of us are brought up to be dependent – on other’s approval, on “experts”, and to needing permission.

In the industrial era, it made sense, hierarchies were effective means of command and control, and compliance meant the difference between earning a living, or not.

As technology and social structures changed, we moved towards greater independence, often with money at the heart of it. Lifelong employment disappeared, and with it notions of loyalty and duty towards an employer, to be replaced by independence  for those who had marketable skills, or independent means. It gave us a sort of lonely freedom – not being governed, but without the work community that often provides support and meaning.

The most successful are now moving beyond this to interdependence – retaining all the options of independence, but choosing communities and “tribes” of those they choose to share their work and lives with. I work with a lot of fast growing businesses, and this feature – an interdependence with colleagues and clients – is a very visible feature. It gives them purpose, adaptability, flexibility and huge capability and attractiveness.

Many established organisations, and most of government, has not yet understood this. They pay lip service to it without understanding its implications. A dangerous place to be complacent. Those centralised institutions, from Head Office to Westminster, are becoming less and less important to those with the talent to create the future.

Adam Lent has written an excellent blog on the RSA site, which examines what 21st Century organisations might look like. In my view, worth the five minutes it will take to read.

The future is arriving faster than you think, whether you’re ready or not.

It offers immense opportunity, but won’t ask permission.