On a good size maple tree, there are likely around 50,000 maple leaves and it will drop at least that many seed ‘helicopter’ or twirly whirlies. Each seed head on a marigold plant contains a rough average of around 100 seeds; each plant has multiple seed heads. This is quite common amongst all plants and trees, so why are we not overrun by them?
Lots of different reasons in the end including these like: seed quality, soil quality where the seeds land, water, birds, disease, sunlight, temperature, humans, and so on. However every year, the plants keep making and sharing seeds. And each year, I always find a little maple tree growing in the weirdest places – a crack in a rock, on the driveway, etc.
What I find interesting about this is that in a small garden with only a few plants and trees, it is not difficult to imagine that each year there are 500,000 seeds competing to grow into new plants and trees. And the success rate is very low. In my work with organisations, while we encourage the idea sharing of ways to improve etc., there is a tendency to also want to only focus on one or two ideas to grow.
I understand the need to focus and try to ‘back winners’, however I wonder if we need to consider encourage more ideas to be shared at the front end of the funnel so that there are more ideas to select from. Is this one of the things we need to learn from nature? Yes we all have limited resources and of course we want to channel those resources into good ideas. But to have winners, to have seeds sprouting into new life, do we need to increase our odds by encouraging more ideas to start with?
And maybe, we also need to be looking for the ideas that are growing in the weird places.
By limiting idea generation, are we engaging in high risk gambling?