Columbus’ The Topiary Park is the only known topiary interpretation of a painting — in the world. Let me say that again, in the world. So, why has it only been done once and what did it take?
First of all, it’s a lot of work to keep up. It takes all summer to trim the shrubs, even now, after the park has been around for more than 20 years.
But more importantly, it took both vision and talent to get it created in the first place. The drive came from Elaine Mason, the skill from James Mason.
This got me thinking: How often do ideas fall because they lack either execution or innovation?
Even with Topiary Park, the subject of this month’s Uniquely Columbus, the execution and innovation weren’t found in the same person.
Is this another case of the chicken and the egg? Does the drive or the talent come first? Or, maybe I’m mixing up my metaphors. Is it a matter of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Well, it’s not going anywhere without both innovation and execution.
Find the weak spot
In the business world, it often seems like companies are better at one or the other. More mature organizations can be whizzes at execution, but they’ve lost the spark that helped them grow in the first place.
In other cases, small companies are full of innovation but haven’t made the leap up in scale that a more controlled and accountable operation needs.
An idea — or successful business — needs both parts to come together, so I think the first step is figuring out which area is the one where you or your company is naturally weaker.
I know personally, execution can be my downfall — and that’s probably why I do better when a deadline is breathing down my neck. But once I realize that, I can come up with ways to bolster my weakness, such as creating an artificial deadline and holding myself to a penalty if I don’t make it.
No one person or organization is going to be equally strong in execution and innovation without a little planning and work.
One more hurdle — time
The other key to Topiary Park is something that’s out of your control — yes, I know that’s a scary thought for many business leaders — timing.
The space was abandoned, and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was looking to do something special with it to set Columbus apart. The Masons were ready with their idea at the right time.
Often, companies create a product or service that it is too far ahead of its time so there’s no customer base. Or, they jump into a hypercompetitive market and get lost in the noise.
Yes, it’s daunting to think you could have conquered both the vision and talent, but still go nowhere because the timing is poor. But when all three come together, you can create something that’s unique and one-of-a-kind — like Topiary Park.