Looking for Spring

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 6.14.45 PM

As Winter turned to Spring, I took many pictures of Spring, but haven’t had the time to write.

With Winter, I loved its peace and tranquility. I enjoyed my snow walks (and runs) with Rusty :)

With Spring, it’s a different experience. Spring fascinates me with its limitless potential for life. Almost overnight, lifeless looking trees burst into full bloom and greenery. The photos below were taken a few weeks apart – it was not long ago that shoots were just beginning to peek from the ground and in a hurry they have become so luxuriant it feels as if Winter was never here!

Spring - Comparison

As I look at these transformations, I can’t help but wonder: What gives life?

Some would say, it’s the warmer temperature and sunshine. We didn’t have much of these in Winter. Some might add that all these result from the tilt of the earth, which affects how much sunshine we get.

Also true, but perhaps less obvious, is that the potential for life comes not only from the sun but also from the roots and seeds that lie dormant through the Winter waiting for Spring to come. After all, if the roots and seeds contained no life, nothing would grow.

There are some similarities to teams and organizations. Most of us can tell a lethargic team or organization when we see one. Likewise, if a team wes full of energy or bursting with life we will know it right away.

When an organization is sluggish, a common complaint is that people are not motivated. A common suggestion is that people need to be more motivated. I often find that strange – it’s like telling a dead seed to be more alive, or ordering trees to flower in Winter!

I don’t think this is the right way to look at things. What if instead, we choose to believe that just like seeds people have an inborn and limitless potential for life? The issue then is not that people should be more motivated, but what we need to provide to unleash their dormant energy.

Some organizations try to create the “right” conditions. If plants need warmth and light, we can build a greenhouse to get them to grow. The equivalent in organizations is to introduce systems and incentives (sometimes, penalties). While this may work for a while, unless the change is organic it may not be sustainable. A greenhouse may help plants to grow in Winter, but when it is removed the plants won’t survive long. Furthermore, can we build enough greenhouses to recreate Spring in Winter?

Perhaps what we need instead is a natural climatic system that only Spring can bring. I think the equivalent in organizations is values and culture. Just like the tilt of the earth, values and culture may be subtle but they can have far reaching effects. When the values and culture are set right, demotivated people bloom into life, they instinctively know what to do, they require less supervision. A thousand flowers can bloom without having to build, or tinker with, a thousand greenhouses.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 6.16.09 PM

What gives life in an organization is not the schemes and incentives (though they may help), but values and culture. Organizations that go for the former set rather than the latter one, may find themselves running against a slope all the time, much similar to how we might feel if we tried to artificially “create” Spring in Winter?

Spring is coming! :)

Looks like the polar vortex is returning for the 3rd time! :\

However, I’m feeling optimistic that it won’t be as bad this time, because there are many signs that winter is winding down and spring is on its way! :)

The days are certainly getting longer. We have long pased the shortest day in winter (22 Dec), when sunrise was 7:14am and sunset was 4:23pm (in Chicago). Today, sunrise was 6:32am and sunset was 5:36pm. And we have seen more sunshine days these two weeks :)

And the trees are starting to bud! I couldn’t resist snapping this picture on my way to school. In this day and age, we like to believe sophisticated technology and sensors can predict everything. However, I’m someone who believes that Mother Nature knows far more than we will ever do, and nature offers clues to many of our most complex questions. So if the trees are budding, spring can’t be too far away. And I trust the trees :)

Spring1

More signs of nature! Fauna is out and about as well. So Rusty’s “enemies”, the squirrels, didn’t freeze in the winter. In fact, they are starting to appear in numbers again! I spotted a few, but wasn’t fast enough to snap them. But I did catch a number of these swans happily nestling in the sun! :)

Spring2

And if you’re still not convinced that spring is coming, here’s a view from the treadmill at the sports center – it was breathtaking!

Spring3

So, even though it may get cold again later this week, things are definitely starting to look up! Yay! :D