On Risk, Innovation and Aspiration

Besides everything else I do, I write for Horticulture Week and Garden Retail - both UK specialty trade publications for their sector.

I love writing for these guys.  The editors, Kate Lowe and Matthew Appleby, respectively, are not only great but they're risk takers.  After all, they asked me to write for them and I'm far removed from their sector and their country, for that matter.  (The writers and staff are great, too!)

Yet the issues are the same - especially when it comes to innovation and aspiration and risk.  That's why the blog post I wrote for them today on the Garden Retail Awards I judged was particularly happy-making.

I thought I'd share, so here it is!

Garden Retail Awards - It Was a Good Year!

Each year, I wait with trepidation to find out if Matthew Appleby is going to invite me to be a judge for the Garden Retail Awards.

The reason for my trepidation is two-fold.  First, I really want to be asked.  It's a great opportunity for me to see what all of you are doing out there and, particularly, how you are defining everything from "innovation" to "quality" to "best of breed."  And when the applications are good, I get to simply beam for you guys for doing what you need to do to change your world.

The second reason isn't as happy-making.  That's because for the past couple of years I've been disappointed - particularly in the levels of innovation risk - that I've seen in the applications.  There wasn't a whole lot of big idea/big concept world changing going on.  At least not driving the industry forward from within.  Or at least not based on the applications I was reading.

Some of you, at this point, are going to be very angry with me.  You'll say that I'm an outsider and that I don't understand what it means or what it takes to succeed in your market.  You'll accuse me of being an American - and, even worse, from the Silicon Valley - which gives me unrealistic expectations anyway.

And you may be correct - because all of that is true.  At least the part right up to the unrealistic expectations.  Because what I know - and what I've been writing you guys about for years - is that you can do far more than you believe you can do.

As well, it's not that there isn't good, innovative work being done in the industry.  There is.  It's just that, for a few years there, the moves were all incremental.  Way incremental.  Baby steps.  Miniscule.  Teeny-weeny.

And that being said, for those who were taking those steps I know they didn't feel that way - which is why I give great credit to those who try and risk and aspire.

Now some of you will say that in these tight economic times - particularly when we were in the early stages of the downturn and no one knew what was going to happen next - it made perfect sense not to be too different.  To try too hard.  To extend too far.

And that's okay as far as it goes.  Except the risk you run in those cases is that someone out there is willing to take those risks and do the things to which everyone else is saying, "oh no - not now - maybe later."  Only by the time "later" comes along, those who didn't push and innovate and aspire are playing a game of catch-up - which is much harder to win.

That's why I was so happy and excited - application after application - to read about what many of you in the industry have done in this past year.   

Somewhere along the way, in the categories I was judging, you guys got past the fear and took some really creative, far-seeing steps - all of which have netted you excellent results.

I'm proud of you guys.  All of you.  Those who aspire and those who are still afraid - because simply by being in the business you're in, working within the regulatory and competitive confines within which you work, you're still brave.

But when you attend the awards dinner on the 31st October and, particularly, read up on what the winners did to deserve their award, think about what you're doing now and next and learn from this year's crop of winners.  Then, next year, show the industry what you've got.

And, if Matthew invites me again, I'll be there cheering you on.