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What a tree taught me about innovation

Turner's OakIn a superb demonstration of the ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ principle, Turner’s Oak not only survived, but thrived.

I listen to Radio 4 in opportunistic bursts, like a secret binger. Ten minutes in the morning getting dressed, another ten minutes if I’m in the car on my own (impossible to listen with kids in there, might as well tune to Heart and sing along), You & Yours while I break for lunch, maybe Book at Bedtime if I’m lucky. Occasionally on a long drive I listen non-stop for several hours and emerge feeling stiff but somehow improved.

Today I caught part of Plants: From Roots to Riches, in which Kathy Willis was speaking with Tony Kirkham, head of arboriculture at Kew Gardens, about Turner’s Oak. I’d never heard this story before. In the great hurricane of 1987, around 700 trees in Kew’s magnificent grounds were laid waste. The magnificent 200-year-old Turner’s Oak was lifted almost entirely out of the ground, roots and all, but instead of toppling, it simply dropped back into its original hole. The arborealists surveying the damage the next day feared the worst, and made plans to cut it down once they’d dealt with the fallen trees around it. But in a superb demonstration of the ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ principle, Turner’s Oak not only survived, but thrived.

It turned out that the ground around the enormous tree had become compacted over the years, as thousands of people tramped by, admiring it, jumping from its accommodating branches, sheltering under it from storms. The shake-up provided by the storm broke up the soil, allowing air and water to the roots, and within months foliage was denser and leaves larger and healthier than before the storm.

The lesson was learned: now one of the key tools at Key is the airspade, which aerates the ground around established trees and injects organic matter to replace the natural mulch tidied away over the years by years over-enthusiastic gardeners.

The lessons for business are clear. If an organisation can take the benefits – new talent, opportunities to do different things, or do things differently – from the gales of disruption rather than simply toppling before them, they can emerge not only alive, but stronger than ever and ready for whatever the next 200 years may bring.

Tags: innovation | strategy

This entry was posted on 13 August 2014 at 21:09 and is filed under business coaching. You can leave a response here.

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1 response to 'What a tree taught me about innovation'

Wikipedia says

Good way of telling, and good piece of writing to get information regarding my presentation focus, which i am going to convey in college.

Added on 23 September 2014 at 09:36

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