Close your eyes and visualise a tree!

I often ask groups of people to close their eyes and visualise a tree! The first tree that comes into their mind. Some enthusiastically and some begrudgingly close their eyes! 

Go on, you do it!  (Pause)

Which tree did you see? (You can open your eyes.) 

I've heard every possible tree described and the discussion never ceases to amaze me and the people I'm working with love the conversation that erupts. How can this simple word 'tree' create so many different word pictures?!

I request this task to highlight how we all have different ideas and perceptions of words and concepts. My view on the term 'respect' might be quite different to that of the person sitting next to me in the workplace. No different to seeing a different tree!

When we set expectations especially in the written word, we miss the visual clues that help build the framework necessary to support understanding. Encouraging conversation (no excuse for 'visual' given today's technology) to explore and agree saves time and money.  This is evident when I challenge teams to solve conflict in their workplace. (There is enormous frustration and anguish over the wasted time to resolve what started as a simple misunderstanding.)

The 'tree' activity is fun and simple to apply at your workplace - try it at the beginning of a meeting. Anchor it to values, behaviours or any shared agreement for your workplace. Ask the question: How does this relate to how we work & communicate? How might we see the same tree?!

Here's my tree!


I've been trying to grow this Lemon tree for eight years! My first crop of lemons.

I've been trying to grow this Lemon tree for eight years! My first crop of lemons.