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Photosynthesis: Plants Maybe – Learning ‘how’ definitely!

Any school child will happily share their biology lesson with you on how plants magically appear from little seeds into green shoots with water, soil, sun, and love.

Long the windowsills of many a classroom lies the loving efforts of classroom children excitedly watching their little seeds poking through the soil towards the light.

Complex chemical reactions are taking place that only those with advanced learning in botany and biology truly understand, yet in its simplest form it is just the evolution of how to engage with source, the environment, and locally available resources. In short, how to take what is around you and turn it into life – into creation.

Within the chloroplasts of a plant cell, photosynthesis occurs in two main phases: light-dependent and light-independent reactions. Within plant cells, chloroplasts are specialized organelles that serve as the sites of photosynthesis. Sounds complex, but simply put, the little seed has parts that know how to take advantage of their surroundings, work with the collective and grow as they are designed to.

These specialized organelles are much like organs in our body. Each has a duty to perform to keep the ‘whole’ in working order.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we had little sites that could help us to grow and evolve – to move from dependent into independent?

Well, we kinda do and don’t! We go from baby hood to youth to adulthood and there, as adults we stay. The growing, evolving, flourishing, or perhaps stagnating are stages, that we, the grown adults, do not necessarily go through as we do not come with a pre-set bundle of chemicals inside our organelles to guide us.

We need environmental stimuli to trigger our adult organelles into action. This one fundamental difference is also one of our greatest gifts.

In business, much like a garden, we are a wonderful collection of types, talents, and skills. Learning to grow and evolve from dependency to independency is the secret to a garden not just a single potted plant.

Organizations are made up of people and so it would seem, like the plants around us we too need to be reminded that the ongoing dance between dependent and independent needs to be nurtured and measured.

When I think of dependent teams and independent teams, I see an evolution of function into form or conversely the opposite, form into function.

Processes, policies, and protocols drive dependency with outcomes becoming predictable, a prerequisite for success in many organizations. However, without vision, innovation, the flourishing of new ideas drains the coffers and market share leaving the hard-working dependents to become obsolete.

We need both. We need independent thinkers and creators – we need those specialized organelles to blue sky ideas as without them we flounder in the vicissitudes of life. Our evolution is not stagnant but the ways in which we grow depends on our conversion from potential energy into kinetic or from light into sustenance.

Plant science encompasses 'Botany' from the Greek word βοτάνη (botanē) meaning pasture or fodder, yet also involves keen observation of plant growth and characteristics plus the ongoing investigation into the relationship between plants and their environment.

Notice the key word here! Relationship. It is in in the vein of relationship that the fine balance between roles, collaboration, dependents, and independents that true growth occurs. Relationship is how the value proposition is shared, for without it, creation falls short.

The story of photosynthesis is in essence all about transition; it is about leveraging resources; it is about collaboration and unique skills being used to create a ‘whole’ plant. While the complexities of chemistry are the realm of the plant world, the complexities of ‘interactions and relationship’ are the domain of the human world.

We must interact well to grow, flourish, profit and contribute to the collective.

Organizations, people, and leadership have a lot in common with the humble seedling undergoing photosynthesis. In a sense the seedling is where the light and dark meet – nutrients from above, the sun and from underground (water soil) or where the twain meet is where growth takes place.

The dependent and independent reactions, the two key components of the growth behavior are, in essence, the how we too, can become mature enough to enter gracefully into a state where Inter-dependency, the pinnacle of maturity or self-actualization is born.

But let’s be real here! The wonders of development be they plant, or organization is not linear nor is it 100% guaranteed. Not all plants or people can transition smoothly or even at all through each category, but with good leadership each ‘phase’ (person) can have a role within the organization and can contribute to the success of the ‘whole’.

‘Grow where you are planted’ is a great expression to highlight that sometimes we need to take stock and use what we have to become more than the sum of our parts.

The evolving or homogenizing is part of both the world of the dependent and independent thinkers. How can we take what we have and grow it further? How can we reinvent what we have into a version 2 or release 5? How can we take our IP, products and services and improve upon them to gain more sales, adoption, members, or licenses?

Sometimes the key is not looking outside but leveraging the resources already in front of us.

Photosynthesis, an internal series of reactions that take place in sequence to trigger growth and evolution. The benefits and tremendous value arising from these transitions feed the planet from the tiny to the enormous; from the warm blooded to cold.

The food chain for all of us lies in the power of little organelles to take sunshine from ex-terra (sun) to terra firm (soil+water) and turn it into nourishment.

If a tiny seedling can achieve so much, think what we can do when we transition ourselves from dependent to independent and beyond?

Enjoy the transition – the journey is so worth it!


Dina O'Reilly is 4xi's Strategic Partnership & Growth lead; she is also our Project Management Office lead and Ghostwriter in Residence, providing BLOGS+ services to clients. To learn more, contact Dina at


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