Preserving Golden Opportunities

Well, cherry picking season passed long ago, but it was followed hard by apricot season.

It’s really been a remarkable year for apricots. The variety of apricots in our region is essentially biennial. Oh, they produce some fruit in the “off” year, but it’s not much. Last year I think we got five altogether. Most people in the region have two trees, producing in alternate years. We’ve also got two, but they produce in the same year. Why the previous owner did this I am not sure, and probably it was unintentional.

In any case, when they come ripe, the apricots come falling off the tree faster than you can pick them up off the ground. You sit under the canopy of branches, on a warm summer day, clearing the ground in front of you. While you’re picking the fruit up, you hear more drop into the space you thought you’d just cleared. The insects buzz, the birds are in intense song mode, and all seems right with the world. You’ve got so many new apricots.

Oh yes, did I mention that you’ve got so many new apricots? You see, it’s a problem. These are not just low hanging fruit, they are golden opportunities, waiting to be picked up.

Golden Opportunities

Like fresh ideas, new initiatives, or “urgent” matters, if you leave them lying about too long, they go bad. Apricots get stale, fresh ideas get pigeon-holed for “later” (I.e. never), new initiatives lose their energy, and urgent matters not only cease to be urgent, they cease to be, period.

Since we can’t eat all those apricots in such a short time, we get cracking:

  • We make jam
  • We use them in chutneys
  • We freeze some
  • We make pies and cakes

In our profession, of course, we can often have the luxurious gift of abundance of ideas and initiatives, without the time, resources or support to realise them all, and of course, we end up frustrated, often cursing our bosses or our cruel fate.

The trick lies in knowing how to seize these golden opportunities, which are often unexpected. We don’t have to realise all these great things at once, but we do need to keep them from going bad. This often means slowing down the decay process. So we can consume (realise) some opportunities right away, and use the others to make jam, chutney, pies and cakes, and so on.

Making jam, pies, etc. for us means transforming our brilliant but currently unrealisable ideas into realisable alternatives or derived products. Obviously, the biggest obstacles are time and resources, and they are usually interconnected. to give a simple example, maybe you’ve got a great way to put all your XML topics into a jazzy CMS. But you don’t have the budget to buy the CMS nor the tools people to configure and maintain it according to your great plan. Well, why not model your structure in your existing software configuration management system? You can leverage existing resources, and probably get your software team interested in helping you set it up, especially if it helps them pull your information into their builds.

You can also freeze some of your projects; freezing is a preservation method. Preserve your projects and ideas by taking the time to detail them, so you can come back to them with the same excitement and enthusiasm you had when you dreamt them up.

Only one thing: unless you can get this project or idea into action immediately, please DO NOT put it into the system to linger and die while everyone tells you what a good idea it is. Pick your moments strategically. Even if you have an abundance of good ideas, it’s best to use just one or two at a time, and pull the frozen ones out of the freezer when you need a little sweetness in your professional life, and golden opportunities are out of season.

I forgot to mention, by the way, that we give a lot of our fruit away. Pies, cakes, jams, chutneys, too. That’s something else you can do with your good ideas – give some away to others in your organisation who might be able to use them, probably sooner than you can. Some people won’t credit you, and that hurts, but you’ll have contributed to your organisation, and what goes around, comes around, not always in the ways we expect.

Another thing I forgot to mention about our local variety of apricots: they get black gnarly spots all over the skin, that look like nasty canker sores. But when you peel them, they are lovely inside: fleshy and tart if you take them a bit early, or juicy and sweet if you take them at their prime of ripeness. I was talking about this with our deputy mayor, recently, and he said, flat out, “black spots are quality.” Remember, that the real source of quality is almost always hidden, and many a truly golden opportunity can be stained with black spots.

Otherwise put, “perfection is the enemy of the good.”

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About Ray

Ray Gallon is co-founder of The Transformation Society, a research and consulting company, and owner of Culturecom, a company that provides business process improvement through communication. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station. Ray has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises. He has been quoted as saying, “Since the beginning, I have been, paradoxically, communicating and shooting myself in the foot. I find that this combination leads to fascinating outcomes that have made me one of the most fortunate people I know.” Ray is a university lecturer and a speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).
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One Response to Preserving Golden Opportunities

  1. Ellen says:

    You took time from your apricot picking to write this. Thank you. Now, I must get back to my plums — same as your apricots, dropping faster than we can collect!

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