The Tale of the Orange and the Lemon Tree

My jogging route seldom changes. That is, until my wife started joining me for my run.

One sunny day she left the driveway in the lead and turned right instead of left. I asked her why we were going counterclockwise. She just grinned and kept jogging so I begrudgingly followed her on our backwards loop.

As we navigated our course, I soon spotted the orange tree that typically serves as my finish marker. As I approached the tree, I stopped in my tracks as the tree full of oranges had vanished. In its exact place, there was now a lemon tree full of lemons. I was dumbfounded and looked up and down the street to see if my reverse-route had disoriented me. I was in the right place! But how can an orange tree turn into a lemon tree!?!

I resumed my jog and something amazing unfolded. As my viewpoint changed, the lemon tree became an orange tree. I retraced my steps and watched the orange tree shift back into a lemon tree. I had discovered that this unusual tree was created by grafting an orange and a lemon tree together. The west facing side was full of oranges and the east facing side was full of lemons.


Much of my work can be summarized by the word perspective. As someone who prides himself in helping organizations solve challenges by finding new perspectives, my counter-clockwise run reminded me that the pursuit of perspective is a lifelong endeavor. Often, broadening our perspective requires the introduction of a change catalyst. In this case, it was my wife suggesting that we run our route backwards. In my work, I consistently find that breakthroughs occur when new perspectives are presented.

Fostering perspective is a lifelong pursuit. It requires us to constantly challenge our assumptions and beliefs. This process creates uncertainty and discomfort. It also requires a willingness to allow people challenge you and your ideas. Using our metaphor, are you willing to run your route backwards? Or more importantly, how do you even know that it is backwards? Do you give permission for people to explain why they see lemons in places where you have only observed oranges? Does your vocabulary include the phrase “I was wrong” or “help me understand your perspective”?

A Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation advertisement once stated, “A different point of view is simply the view from a place where you’re not” (to see the very creative ad photos click here). As we become adept at adjusting our perspective, we discover insight and opportunity. In an upcoming blog, I will post some more ideas about how we can cultivate perspective. In the meantime, I welcome your insights about this topic.

For response:

  • What was your personal application of the Tale of the Orange and the Lemon Tree?
  • What are the factors which make you lose perspective?
  • How do you cultivate perspective in your life?



The Orange/Lemon Tree


The Orange Tree


The Lemon Tree


Photos above copyright Jeff Suderman.

Cover photo copyright Muffet