Have you ever tried catching an octopus?
On the small island of Tonga, octopus is a delicacy. To catch the octopus, local fishers use a lure called a “makafeke.” This lure is simple in design, with only a round stone and a couple large seashells that are fastened to a rope. As the fisher paddles over a reef they dangle the makafeke over the side of their canoe.
Seeking an easy meal, the octopus sprints towards its dinner and seizes the simple lure. Unaware that it’s caught in a trap and so determined in its purpose, the octopus refuses to let go. This instinct has provided the octopus with meal after meal on countless occasions, but this time it spells doom. The fisher is now able to flip the octopus into the canoe.
Have you ever heard this phrase uttered when confronting new problems or challenges: “Well, this is the way it’s always been done”? I know I have. Those nine words are the ultimate “makafeke.”
Over the last decade, the world has evolved quickly. Technological advancements truly push the boundaries of what is possible. High tech also has changed how we interact with each other, and how we operate in our personal and professional lives.
There is a risk in being closed minded to new ideas or ways of thinking. Like the octopus, we can be susceptible to holding too tightly to the notion of “doing things the way they have always been done” even when it comes at such a great personal cost.
The solution is quite simple: Let go. The past way of doing things in most situations will continue to be the right way, but not every time. Some challenges require modern solutions.
On a few occasions while meeting with my father to discuss the future goals and aspirations of our business, he would tell me that there is wisdom in not just looking over your own fence. One should also look around the world to see the innovation and inspiration already happening.
One of the most productive trips I have been on took place 16 years ago when we traveled to the nursery trade show in Essen, Germany. While there, we were inspired by how beautiful their landscape and garden designs were. Immediately we began to brainstorm on how we could capture the feeling we had experienced there and bring it to the United States.
With excitement, we immediately began working with our team to see how we could incorporate this new-found vision into our everyday business model. We made a small tweak to one thing we already do, and it has had a major impact on landscapes across the country.
On another occasion, we visited different countries around Europe, intent on finding solutions to challenges we were facing. Labor laws were infringing on our ability to do needed work in a cost-efficient manner. Europe, having some of the world’s more stringent labor laws, had already found innovative solutions to these labor/cost challenges.
Our friend gave us ideas and showed us how automation through machines and robots allowed them to do the same work that required many employees, but in a fraction of the time. This proved to be a cost-effective solution to their issues.
As I saw these machines and robots in action, my mind began to race and I knew this was the answer to our problem.
I know there are many challenges that lie ahead. Unforeseen obstacles will keep many of you up at night. Don’t be discouraged. Find those who may do things different or better than you. Have them as a mentor and a friend.
Continue to educate and surround yourself with people who are successful at what they do. They will push you to keep moving onward and upward. Innovation and inspiration surround you. Let go. Look out and lean on each other to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.
Todd Nelson, OAN President (2022-2023)
President’s Message from the March 2023 issue of Digger magazine | Download PDF