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What is the definition of success? How do you visualise it, dream it, live and breathe it? How can you design it, shape it and turn it into something tangible? Are you, and your organisation, focussed on looking for ways to do better at what you’re doing?

Like growing a beech tree from its brown husky nut, which requires sandy loam soil, autumn planting, protection from squirrels, sunlight and water; are there fertile foundations and the right conditions to nurture a growth environment within yourself and from your surroundings? After all, as in nature, if the right elements do not come together in a unified and consistent way, then it becomes difficult to thrive. 

The stages that seedlings to trees go through is, of course, a metaphor for the transformative changes that can happen to a person and an organisation. For example, potential for growth and vitality, for rebirth and renewal; or for dreams and ideas that have laid dormant for years, suppressed by circumstances. With a recognition of what’s needed or missing, with care and nurturing, and with consideration and work, an organisation can be restored to the equilibrium of wellbeing and health. 

Learn: How to become a visionary leader

The question is: what are you trying to grow and what environment do you need to craft in order to propagate and flourish? What are its particular characteristics and what form does it take? Perhaps you are already within fertile territory but you need to develop and expand; or maybe by asking the question, you’ve realised you’re in a barren landscape that you need to move away from.

Wherever you are at present, by simply being mindful of yourself and your surroundings you can begin to make adjustments to turn the inhospitable to a world that’s both fruitful and satisfying. Growth thrives in favourable conditions. So what might these be and how can you create a growth environment?

Build a fertile ecosystem

‘People are like dirt. They can either nourish and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.’ Plato

Thinking within the organisation may need to change and that change can only happen from and by the people within it. People need to be nourished, so build the people. Resource mentorship, offer initiatives for better sector-wide and personal learning, have more individuals with knowledge of organisation-wide operations, advocate better wages and personal benefits. Create a path where every member of the organisation is affirmed, challenged and important.  

Cross-pollinate learning to generate ideas

Like the humble honey bee that picks up pollen from one flower and carries it to another, making the receiving plant hardier and able to produce more resilient fruit; an organisation can become stronger by cross-pollinating ideas from as diverse a range of sources as possible. This could be by incorporating a wide range of perspectives, encouraging comment, inspiring and embracing critics and inviting outsiders such as customers, partners, children and the elderly. 

Cultivate a culture of risk-taking

To grow and fulfil any potential, means you have to shift up from your comfort zone. There’s no way out of it than to do as you intend and be the best you can be. To take risk requires energy and courage and subsequently what you’re taking the risk for, has to be worth it. An organisation of risk-takers is an organisation that shares a vision, wants to build it and protect it. To cultivate a risk-taking environment means creating a growth environment, ensuring a place where everyone genuinely feels comfortable sharing and implementing new concepts and ideas that may even fail. 

Delicately balance ‘challenge’ with ‘nurture’

An organisation beginning to take on a new venture or different pathways is like an infant exploring its environment. Sometimes it will want to look behind and return to where it came from, to feel reassured. Like a child, too much of a challenge, without sufficient reassurance, can overwhelm. However, too much time spent in its comfort zone, can stunt an organisation’s growth and eventually make it weaker. 

Change ‘tomorrow’ to ‘now’

These few words will probably resonate throughout most organisations: ‘It’s not quite the right time to start this’. Problem is, the longer you wait, the less likely it will occur. Good ideas left untreated leaves the organisation open to uncertain forces (such as complacent attitudes, negative value system and over compliance) that will leave people restless, without vision and in turmoil.

Move to a growth mindset

An organisation that doesn’t embrace growth is one that avoids challenges, hides flaws, ignores feedback and becomes threatened by the competition’s success. It also fails to update and notice its internal and external environment. An organisation with a growth mindset is just the opposite. It’s an organisation that can attribute its success to learning and believes in improvement through active effort. It embraces temporary setbacks and challenges as an opportunity to learn about and views others’ growth environment as a source of inspiration. 

Learn from the oldest ‘growth environment’ on the planet

Your organisation is a thriving environment if it embraces all of the resources and qualities available to meet its vision. The greatest model to learn from is nature itself. After all, it’s complex network of varying organisms and organisations that have had billions of years of research and development to evolve to be the very best it can.

Organisations operate in almost an identical way to other living systems. Systems such as the rainforest, the coral reef, even the garden pond. Here there is also shared learning, the ability to rapidly adapt to change, doing rather than thinking. The more you look at these systems, the more you can identify your environment with patterns in nature. 

At HotHouse, our creative leadership programmes use nature to help develop an understanding of how organisation life works and how by understanding and embracing change opens up incredible new possibilities. By looking at creating a growth environment, you can enliven even the most staid places with learning, collective intelligence, creativity and resilience. 

Photo credit: Peter Castleton