Find your business answers in analogies

Have a good look at this image. Several stacks of coins, each growing consecutively larger, each one topped by a seedling of an undetermined plant, which also grows with each consecutive stack, until you get to a large jar of coins with a larger plant.

This image has been used many times, probably because it’s available as an open source image. I’m sure we’ve all seen it countless times, and understood what we believe is it’s intended meaning. “Watch your money grow”, or something along those lines.

But I wonder…. why was the analogy of a seedling used? Because it taps into our deep and innate understanding that plants grow? And why is that a deep and innate understanding?

The use of analogies has been a means of telling stories and teaching ideas and wisdom since the beginning of time. The use of analogies about nature is just as old. Could it be that nature has always been our reality, literally, since the beginning of time? Before the internet was a thing, before the industrial revolution, before business and commerce, even before the invention of the wheel, we had nature to show us how things work.

Plants start out as seeds, then they grow – ever so delicate and fragile at first – and then, given the right conditions and nutrients and support, they become strong and resilient plants that provide food, fuel, shelter, and other necessities of life. Then they continue on, and self-propagate by creating seeds, and the cycle continues.

It’s a beautiful demonstrator that tells a story about growth, persistence, overcoming challenges, and showing that our purpose is to be for the benefit of mankind, which is then made complete by providing for the next generation to do the same.

With my long background in small business support, I’ve always loved this analogy to show how a business follows the same pattern. When there are questions to why a business is struggling, or what to do when unprecedented challenges arise, there is a very quiet, yet eminently qualified, teacher there to show us what the answer is.

For those who learn to recognise the answers that nature provides, life is beautiful, and there is an abundance of gratitude for this constant source of perfect wisdom. So let’s look at a few analogies here, and develop a little more gratitude for this earth we call home.

  • The future is unknown.

    • We often rely on our projections to guide the things we do today. We use methods with very substantial data behind them, but ultimately we understand that anything can happen. The only factual data we have is historical, anything else is a guess.

    • In nature, a wildfire will rip through a forest and devastate the landscape. Did those trees plan for that in their exponential growth trajectories? I don’t know, maybe they did? The forest will have seeds that only germinate after a fire – the fire literally is their wake up call – and the ash provides a fertile environment to grow again. I loved watching the green return after a bushfire close to my home 5 years ago. There was this intensity to the regrowth, and it brought joy to many people who were scarred by the blackened landscape. There will be disasters, we’ve had them before, and they will happen again. They take different forms, too. The next one could be a flood, or a hurricane, or something else. The important thing to remember is that it’s not if something will happen, but when, and in what form?

    • In business, while we do our best to predict the future, the best thing to do is plant seeds that can start again after a disaster, whatever that means to you in your business. Things, and maybe even people, will be lost, but ultimately, life goes on for those who remain. If we can find how to live that life – or run that business – with a new intensity and passion, we will pay respect to what was lost.

  • Financial Management

    • Do I have enough? How much do I need to save? How much will that cost? The juggle of balancing the income and outgoings in a business is a constant struggle for some, but not for all. Some businesses are actually doing really well, what do they do differently?

    • In nature, energy is provided by the sun, the wind, the water, in different ways and forms. All life needs sun and water, but in the right quantities. Some plants and animals have adapted themselves, due to the environment they live in, to need less water, and be more resilient to the scorching sun. Or they may have adapted themselves well to living on the forest floor, getting only a little filtered light, and where there’s an abundance of water. Trees by the river grow tall and healthy, but in a storm, their roots are not deep enough to hold them, because they didn’t need to be deep to find water. Other trees, far from any source of water, have grown roots that reach deep into the earth to find water, and it provides a strong anchor to withstand even the fiercest storm.

    • In business, we can use this pattern to show us that we must adapt our business to the environment we find ourselves in. There may be an abundance of something – and possibly a short supply of something else. We need to make the most of what we have. What is that for you? We also need to adjust our business model to not need so much of whatever there isn’t much of. But – whatever there is an abundance of, be sure to have a strategy to survive a storm. How deep do your roots go?

  • Finding the right people

    • “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” Remember that saying? Haha, but what if you need a monkey? They’re very agile, clever and social creatures, maybe that’s exactly what you need in your business? I guess it depends on the job.

    • Creatures of all shapes, sizes, and abilities cover this earth. Every one can do something with apparent ease that would be impossible for another to do. Have you ever seen a whale climb a tree? But how long can a monkey hold his breath? Or how far can he swim?

    • In business, look less at the resume, and more at the person. Everyone has talents and abilities, some may even be as yet undiscovered. When you tap into the thing they were born to do, they will thrive, and so will your business as a direct result. It’s not an easy task, not by any means. But this is the answer that will work best. Instead of searching endlessly for the “perfect” skill-set, be adaptable to what you have available, and make it work for you.

These are just a few examples of how nature can provide answers for today’s business questions. They are analogies that you can rely on, because nature never gets it wrong. This week, I encourage you to take some time out, and take your questions out into nature. Find a place that you can connect with, that will tell you the stories, that can show you the analogy you need right now.

Then, always remember to show your gratitude to the earth for the wisdom you’ve received by doing something kind for the earth in return. Plant a tree, compost your waste, buy the plastic-free option.