A farmer in Wayanad, let’s call him Aakash, went against all the conventional ways of growing coffee. He did not follow any of the so called rules. For example he allowed the coffee bushes to grow to a height of 12 feet when normally on most plantations they are pruned to a height of 6–7 feet. He was a source of lots of local amusement initially, I am told, since he had some funny ideas about how coffee should and could be grown.
Nothing succeeds like success. Having demonstrated that his unconventional ways are yielding unconventionally large amounts of coffee, just like his 12 foot coffee trees, he is now standing tall too. Aakash is next aiming for a Guinness book of records, for the highest quantity of coffee to be produced from a single acre of land. I got to know about his story from my dad. He is a career planter and keen to learn from Aakash, he had invited this now much celebrated farmer over, to learn from his experiences. “It’s amazing to see what he is doing, grafting high yielding varieties onto the regular bushes and selling those scions (saplings) to others, which will in time improve the yield in the entire area” high praise indeed from a career planter for a career farmer. Apart from being inspired by the story of Aakash’s achievement, I also admire my dad’s keenness to keep learning and trying new things.
This is a powerful reminder to me that there is no one right way to do things. The famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win” came to mind.
Dad and I trade stories every evening. I fill him in on how my day went and he transports me to a different world full of wonderful sunrises and sunsets, coffee, pepper, cardamom, lychee, mangosteen, and all sizes and shapes of vegetables. He also shares interesting stories like this one about the farmer who is teaching the entire district new ways to grow coffee and get a bumper crop.
As we stand at the doorstep of 2021 and start planning for the year ahead, it is a powerful reminder to me, to take the road less travelled. To try something new, that goes against conventional thinking, but is rooted in an insight or an instinct. The years of growing various crops had given Aakash all the experience he needed to find a breakthrough in a new area, coffee. He did not allow the nay-sayers to stop him from experimenting and now with his first-hand knowledge and the bumper crop, he is the new expert on how to get the most out of each coffee bush, or should I say tree.
This is the kind of thinking and approach that will help drive the next wave of innovation in any business or service offering. We are always looking for ways to improve productivity, improve growth, improve margin, improve service, and improve quality. More of the same will only get us the same. Consumer’s behavior has changed and will continue to evolve. Employees have new expectations of their employers. All the old formulae don’t really compute that well anymore. It is time to explore new ways of doing things. Don’t let the laughter of others or the fear of failure stop you. If your Spidey sense is tingling and telling you something, urging you to try a new approach, trust it, allow the idea to grow and before you know it, others will be standing beside you in the shade of your success.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get thinking about what new you are going to bring alive in 2021. Stand firm behind your ideas, allow them to take root and you will eventually stand tall and have the last laugh, as they grow and shape the world. Don’t stop there. Like Aakash, be willing to spread the joy, share your knowledge and bring smiles to those around you.
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