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3 Lessons From Nature On Sustainability, Collaboration, and Growth

The following is a guest post by Sonia Di Maulo.

“The Apple in the Orchard” is a story about finding the courage to emerge as a leader, a story I orginally viewed as my own. However, as I run workshops, continue to speak about my book, and get feedback, I realize that it’s everyone’s story.

There have been many interpretations of the story. And this is by design. The story is meant to help you rediscover your natural ability to connect in a meaningful way and to then propel you to action.

  • If you are ready to hear this message, then the story is yours.
  • If you are meant to do something that you have yet to do, then the story is yours.
  • If you have a desire to interact with the people around you in a more connected way, then the story is yours.
  • If you are looking for the courage to emerge or if you have “taken the leap” and are in a period of self-awareness or a journey of self-discovery, then the story is yours.

Those who have read the book have identified the following themes in the story:

  • Leadership
  • Courage
  • Risk
  • Personal achievement
  • Trust in yourself
  • Connection
  • Change
  • Communication

For me there are three key themes, and I will describe them here in greater detail. Use the questions in each theme to self-assess the current state of your work environment.

Theme #1: Emergence & Innovation
Jeffrey Goldstein in the School of Business at Adelphi University initially defined emergence as: “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems”.

In other words, 1+1 ≠ 2. For example, snowflakes and a termite cathedral are classic examples of natural emergence in complex systems.

The main character in the book, Brave Apple, goes through a journey of self-discovery. At the start of the story, she realizes she was meant to do more and started seeing the signs propelling her towards exploration and learning. These led her to her emergence and in the process she creates something new, and “does something the trees will tell stories about.”

In the organizations I work with, employees are encouraged to continually improve and embrace change. Do these employees realize what this role entails? Are leaders enabling the emergence of their team towards a greater sum of individual parts… towards the creation of something that is greater than any one of them can discover alone? Towards the tolerance of making mistakes?

And therein lies innovation.

Theme #2: Connection
In the story, Brave Apple discovers connections that were always there but that she could never see before her emergence. The connections apparent in the orchard helped her to learn about herself in ways she never thought possible. And this connection made her glow.

We are all connected, visibly and invisibly. When our feet touch the ground, we are connected with everyone else whose feet touch the same surface. Do we stop to think about what this connection means in our organizations? How does this connection exhibit itself in our actions and words?

As colleagues, do we behave in a way that demonstrates that we are connected as one?

As leaders, are we encouraging collaboration or competition?

Theme #3: Collaboration
Authentic connection fuels positive collaboration that celebrates conflict, and encourages transparency of mistakes. An apple orchard’s ability to work collaboratively to sustain life and give life is what inspired me to use this scene as a backdrop for my story.

“The day is hot and Red Harvest’s leaves are losing water. The signal is perfect; from her branches it reaches her roots with the message to take in more water. Then they earth becomes thirsty; Red Harvest’s roots release a signal to her leaves asking them to close their pores so they won’t lose even more precious water. Balance is restored.”

  • How effective are our signals? Are they authentic?
  • Do we listen to the signals being delivered around us?
  • What are they really saying?
  • Do we care to understand them?
  • Do we take the time to clarify and connect during times of tension?
  • Do we have guiding principles that help us choose actions and words that unite and align?
  • Are we working together like the tree in the story?

Rediscovering What We Have Lost
When I present the themes of my book, I ask, “How are we connected?”

A deep question that calls for deep thinking… but when I ask my children the same question, they have instant answers. We discuss this question at length. This leads me to a great discovery. We were born with the ability to connect authentically, naturally… and over time, living in our current state, we have lost the ability to connect to our own needs, let alone the needs of others, to live in unity and harmony and in life-giving ways. Just like an apple orchard.

How well do the people in our lives (including us) connect with us as real people sharing the same life together? How can you create positive human connection that leads to emergence, innovation, and collaboration?

My story, a simple story, offers a vision for the new world of work. It provides a glimpse into the power of living systems as models for sustainability, collaboration, and growth.

“The Apple in the Orchard by Sonia Di Maulo is a lovely little book with a profound message: To pursue greatness, aspiring leaders sometimes must dare to leave the familiar. Opportunities for growth and learning are all around you—so take the leap, and grow!” – Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Great Leaders Grow

Sonia Di Maulo is a performance improvement and feedback consultant and author of the new book “The Apple in the Orchard: A story about finding the courage to emerge”. To learn more about Sonia’s book and to see what others are saying about it, visit her website at www.theappleintheorchard.ca.

Some other posts you may enjoy:

  1. A Springtime Reminder on Leadership, Communication, and Collaboration
  2. What Leaders Can Do To Encourage Learning And Growth
  3. Identifying The Real Hero In Your Organization’s Story
  4. Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Company Brand’s Message
  5. Are You An Original Leader Or A Copycat Leader?
  6. How Leaders Are Creating Engagement In Today’s Workplaces


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