Trellises and vines

My balcony currently has no plants on it but I have a vision of a small green jewel that I can look out on, sit on, smell bee-loving plants on and generally enjoy in any spare moment I happen to have.

With this end in mind I contacted various people listed by the Society of Garden Designers but as I don't have 200 acres for landscaping they wouldn't help. So I called in on spec to the local flower shop and asked if they knew anyone as I have no clue as to how to convert my empty open-fronted box into a green jewel. John turned up and suggested trellising and various types of evergreen vines. With this idea, and thanks to ready access to the web, I started to investigate.

That same day I read the following: "Imagining today minus the Net is as content-free an exercise as imagining London in the 1840s with no steam power, New York in the 1930s with no elevators, or L.A. in the 1970s with no cars. After a while, the trellis so shapes the vine that you can't separate the two." Clay Shirky, who studies the Internet.

This made me think. Here I am able to find potential balcony vine and trellis info, do rapid research, buy stuff for more or less immediate delivery – my behaviour is being shaped by the structure of the internet.

Take the trellis/vine metaphor into organisations and you get the idea of the trellis being the infrastructures like policies, protocols, processes, procedures, technologies, and the vines being the relationships and behaviours of the people in the organisation and their interdependencies with the organisational trellises.

Trellis trains, shapes and supports the vine for a specific purpose. For example, 'The first step in getting peas started is to build a trellis. There's been recent research that shows peas grow more fruit if they're supported. Results show a 30-60 percent higher yield, or amount of fruit grown, on trellised plants'. Not a bridge too far to see that support mechanisms – pay, performance management, RAG ratings, and other trellises of organisations are intended to drive productivity.

What we need to be aware of is that organisational trellises can mitigate against the inclusion and diversity that organisations also say they crave and that some say is a business imperative. (See a recent article here).

Again we can look to the gardening column for insight. In How to Choose Trellises and Supports for Climbing Plants the advice is 'think about what kinds of plants you want to grow. A climbing rose requires a different type of support than a sweet pea; pole beans need a different support from a tomato or cucumber plant. To learn more about which types of supports suit which types of plants, read How Plants Climb'.

So I turned to How Plants Climb and discover that there are several types of climbers and they 'climb in particular ways: some wrap, some adhere, and some curl'. There is a typology of climbers – tendrils, twiners, scramblers, adherers, and clingers. (Unfortunately not nine or we would have a good substitute for the labels in the 9-box grid). They need different types of trellising and support.

However , in most organisations the trellising is fairly uniform i.e. the same pay structures, the same policies, the same measures and incentives. It doesn't allow for the natural differences inherent in the different people we employ and say we want to employ.

To get to diversity and inclusion don't we have to be much more reflective about choosing and providing the right types of trellising that will allow the diverse types of people we want to include to climb and flourish?

Let me know.

(Meanwhile listen to the Flanders and Swan tragic song about the love of two young vines, the right-handed honeysuckle and the left-handed bindweed).

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