Plant Seeds. Protect Saplings.

The mighty redwood grows to over 350 feet tall and can live 2,500 years. Like every tree, even the gigantic redwood begins as a sapling. In the redwood’s case, that sapling may take up to 400 years before it reaches its true potential.

Imagine the impatient landowner, scoffing at a puny redwood sapling after only a few years of life. It would be easy to neglect or even remove the fragile tree, long before it had the chance to soar. In contrast, the longer-term view is to plant plenty of seeds and protect the saplings throughout their ascent to greatness. This is how majestic forests climb to the heavens, realizing their full opportunity for growth.

Which approach do you take in your organization? Think how quickly we extinguish new ideas, far before they’ve had the chance to materialize. Or how we may prematurely crush the spirit of new thinking, approaches, or methodologies. We can’t compare a sapling to its fully developed big brother, so how can we hold our idea saplings to the same standards as fully tested, mature solutions?

It may be easy to dismiss the saplings in our businesses, but doing so will ensure a baron future. As our existing successes are harvested, they must be replaced with the next generation or our once beautiful forests become extinct. In fact, it is a key role of leaders to plant seeds and protect the saplings.

Yes, the mature products and services and systems are the ones that may drive profits today, but a lack of investment in the future will eventually lead to grim results. Of course we must care for our most advanced and profitable efforts, but not at the expense of our seeds and saplings. We cannot mortgage our futures only to savor the present.

Give those emerging, unperfected, early-stage concepts a little breathing room. Nurture and protect them, fertilize often, and, in turn, they’ll evolve into your redwoods of tomorrow. Extinguish prematurely, and run the risk that subsequent harvests will come up short.

Plant seeds. Protect saplings. This is what sustainable business is all about.