Carrying on from Part 1 looking at sustainable ideas, here we look at more ways being a better gardener will help your new ideas thrive!

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Like every good gardener will tell you – you need 100% commitment to make and maintain a fantastic garden and ideas are no different. This commitment from you and supporting members has to be present not just in the formulation and pitch of the idea, but also during the implementation and outcome. The important thing here is time. Getting an idea to become self-sustainable isn’t going to happen overnight. Like all great things, such an achievement will take a while to happen – the best gardens are the result of months or even years of hard work. It is all well and good putting in the hours and enthusiasm at the beginning of a project, however, if you are going to continue any early success of an idea then you need to cultivate it until it is able to stand on its own without your support – and even then a bit of help whenever conditions become bad will be needed. If you aren’t totally convinced by the potential of your own idea, then how can you expect anyone else to be. So, before you start pitching an idea ask yourself whether you are willing to go the extra mile to see it succeed or not, because if you aren’t then you might as well not bother.

                                         Acorns

Actually look at your garden

In the same way a good gardener will look at what plants thrived or died and why at the start of each summer, you need to have a review system for your idea (preferably more than one every winter), so that even when an idea is up and running, you are always looking to see why it has performed the way it has. The key to sustainability is the ability to change with the environment. The very definition of sustainability is thriving over the long term.  In order to achieve this, you need to recognise that the business environment and situation you are operating in now will not be the same in a few years’ time. The best way to ensure your idea weathers these changes and  develops with them, is by looking at the idea at regular intervals throughout the year (how many depends on the situation), and evaluating what aspects are doing well, what aren’t doing so well and, most importantly, why? By answering these main questions and combining them with some knowledge of your industry, you should get a good idea about what needs to be changed or updated to ensure the longevity of the idea. Another good thing about regular reviews, is it can give you some perspective of the progress made. This can be very useful as even when your idea isn’t growing as fast as you would like it to in the future, it can be encouraging to think back to what it was like when it was just a small shoot in the ground.

Water features, gnomes and stepping stones

As mentioned before, the longevity of your idea will depend heavily on the support and buy in from those involved. The average person doesn’t like change. Change too often means bad things, so any new ideas are likely going to be rejected by people in favour of the safety of what they already know. Therefore, add a few water features, gnomes and stone ornaments to your garden – make it more visually appealing to give people a reason to adapt to it in the long term. Another way to ensure this is to take away the paths and leave only stepping stones going right through the middle of your garden. Make sure there is no way of avoiding the garden and the only way to progress is to immerse themselves in it. Sanchia Moraes of Miller Insurance uses this tactic. “When we introduced our new HR competency framework model, we made sure it was embedded in all HR processes, which are then interlinked at all stages in a web like structure.  If people cannot avoid a new process, it means they can’t go back to their old ways.” Sometimes you need more than a gentle nudge to have people accept new ideas in the long term.

                                                 Stepping Stones

Fertilizer

When nutrients are low and growth slows down – gardeners aren’t afraid to add something extra into their garden to kick start their plants. Fertilizer gives the plants the nutrients that are missing to help them thrive. Your ideas may also at times be missing something that keeps them flourishing. Don’t be afraid to get yourself some ‘fertilizer’ and look for help from fellow employees to find the missing links. It might be that you have all the basics covered however need help with internal marketing – or maybe administration is something you struggle with. The other thing you may well need is money – something to cover costs during less prosperous times or to buy equipment needed to keep the idea going. Find the people you need to give your idea everything that it needs. Although it may be difficult to obtain their skills and assets just remember to prepare for the question – what’s in it for me?

How to be a good gardener

There you go then -unequivocal proof that ensuring the long term sustainability of a business idea is very similar indeed to what it takes to grow and maintain a successful garden. Both need deep roots to survive, the right conditions, time, some man-power, some elbow grease, aesthetically pleasing features and also rather a lot of talking (although not necessarily in a Geordie accent). Putting this theory into practice can admittedly be hard as often these ideas are side projects or low priority and can take a backseat to primary functions. This means keeping the commitment to put those extras hours in end up being more important than ever, as you will need to find the extra time to review your progress, network with potential backers and continue to analyze the situation. However, this is all necessary in order to keep an idea from just fading into the background once the initial excitement has dissipated. Remember – a perfect garden will always have its fair share of weeds and pests, but with the right tools they can be overcome. Without them, however, you may find holes in your lettuce and your plants dying! If you can overcome them though, the fruits of your labour can be delicious and look great!

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