It always amazes me where inspiration strikes. Innovation comes from having the time to think and I make sure I have thinking time on a weekly basis – usually when walking the family dog. On my walk yesterday, I was looking at the profusion of lilly pilly trees planted on nature strips in front of the houses on my street. I have looked at these trees, and the mess they make at this time of year when the fruit drops off them, for 12 years and only yesterday was I looking at them as a source of food. Lilly pilly is bush tucker, a native tree with a small purple fruit with quite a tart taste, good for eating off the tree as a snack but also good for utilising in jam. It struck me that the idea of foraging for food amongst the ornamental trees and the blending of the old and new (bush tucker with jam making techniques) was a great metaphor for the type of thinking needed in organisations today.

I think that we should develop the ability to look at the everyday occurrences and assumptions within our organisations in new ways. Reviewing what is useful and re-casting that which we take for granted. Only through the conscious use of perspectives and the ability to shift from ours to another’s, do we have any hope of becoming nimble enough to try and deal with the ‘black swans’ or future unknowables that will arise for our organisations.

I think the practice of blending the old with the new has merit as well. When you spend as much time as I do working with organisations around future direction setting, you quickly learn that there is absolutely no point in thinking that the future is a place where the past no longer exists. On the contrary, if you have not taken the time to review and decide what will be taken from the past into the future, there is a good chance that the future will either be the same as today or that you will have undermined what is possible in the future by not putting down what is not needed from the past. Often the hardest question for organisations to answer about the future is ‘what are you going to leave behind?’

The leaving behind process is not easy, even when it is acknowledged that what is being left is no longer useful. For many organisations, and the people in them, doing what we have always done is a comfort. It is a tried and true approach to chaos and complexity that will leave us with a feeling of control and influence. That fact that we may be deluding ourselves is not often reflected upon!

The process of looking at the old and seeing something new should not entail recrimination or the feeling that one ‘should’ have seen differently beforehand. Sometimes seeing takes time and space, or it may be a new context shifts your perception of those things around you that were taken for granted. This ability to move the way you see the world is one worth celebrating.

Lilly pilly jam may be an acquired taste, but the process of engaging with an old fruit in new ways is a path to utilising resources we have around us that we may take for granted. What can you see in your organisation that could be used differently or leveraged in another direction? Where is your lily pilly jam?