During my recent trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior, I noticed a lot of new growth on the pine trees. New growth can be identified by seeing a brighter color of green on the ends of the tree branches. Over the summer, this bright green color turns into a much darker green which indicates that the regrowth is complete. Today, as I am looking at the plants and bushes in my garden, I am seeing this same pattern of a brighter green – a sign of new growth. 

Nature is designed to go through these cycles of growth each year. Tree trunks also operate like this but without a noticeable new green color. Instead, trees expand the width of their trunks, creating new rings in the process. Each ring tells a part of the tree’s story,  from how much rain has fallen, to the availability of nutrients.

What are our own growth cycles?

Many organizations ask how they can enhance and strengthen a culture of innovation. There seems to be an assumption that evolution and innovation need to be directed or led. However, this goes against what I have come to believe about people and organizations. As living entities, we are designed to grow and learn. Nature experiments all the time, but only replicate what works. As individuals who are part of nature, we have this designed into us as well.

This pattern of behavior is easier to see in ourselves than in the organizations we work in. We always receive feedback from others or our own bodies if we need to learn new habits or shift the way we are living. We might gain weight, or our doctors might encourage us to exercise more. We might become allergic to a kind of food and need to avoid it in the future. Our children or friends might challenge us to change the way we are living. Sometimes we resist this information and feedback and the choice of not shifting the way we live becomes louder and more persistent. Eventually, we learn and change. 

Organizationally, we have ways to stop our growth and evolution. We call this organizational culture. Among the organizations and businesses who want more innovation, they rarely reflect deeply on what might exist in the organization’s culture that is hindering the very thing they hope to nurture. My recent blog Changing Minds, Changing Everything talks about these different levels of change.  

Sometimes our organizational cultures, processes, structures, and leadership practices are hindering our organizational growth cycles. The first way it hinders growth is by defining growth too narrowly. If we look to profits as the primary metric of growth, we miss all the other tangible and less tangible metrics that support the growth of the organization. If we reflect on our deep background assumptions and worldviews that shape our organizations, we might become more conscious of what is holding back this natural growth cycle that is found in nature and in healthy organizations. 

What if we change colors to indicate new growth?

If nature has ways of showing its annual growth, perhaps we do too as individuals and in our organizations. Our future resilience depends on our ability to become more conscious of this dynamic.

What are the signs that you, your team, and your organization are growing and evolving? How do you notice and celebrate this growth?