6 Lessons of Collaboration from the Aspen Grove


Have you ever experienced the beauty of an Aspen Grove? Its regal rhythm and movement? Its mesmerizing sound?

The Aspen tree is a treat for the eyes and ears. Not only is it a lovely tree, but it is also magical as when a breeze passes, and the leaves flutter a peaceful humming melody.

But our love of the tree goes deeper than its impact on our senses.

Many of you may not know that the Aspen Grove is a great metaphor for one of the paramount tenets of Benefit Corporations: Collaboration.

The Aspen tree uniquely connects through its robust root system with every other aspen tree in its vicinity- some over 40 feet away. This is collaboration, sharing a collective strength and resiliency that can overcome stresses and challenges like disease and fire.

Beyond nature, there is research that shows the value of collaboration in the workplace:

Work.com study found that 97 percent of employees and executives agreed that the level of collaboration directly impacts the outcome of a task or project. When a team or department is sharing information and able to communicate seamlessly, they’re able to work at their most effective level. On the other hand, when employees work in individual silos, it can take longer for a team to finish a particular project or task. 

A recent Stanford study  found “the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge our performance. Participants in the research who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64% longer than their solitary peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate. What's more, this impact persisted for several weeks.”

This is why Benefit Corporations that commit to the triple bottom line of “people, planet, profit” embrace the spirit of collaboration in everything they do.    

Here are some additional facts about the Aspen Grove. Can you find the lesson Mother Nature offers us that can be applied in the workplace?

LESSON 1: Adaptability and Multipurpose functionality

  • Some of the first American Indians to arrive in the United States used the leaves of the Aspen to treat swollen joints, headaches and burns. Meanwhile, parts of the bark were consumed to alleviate stomach ailments and urinary tract infections.

LESSON 2: Versatility

  • Their root systems are connected and part of a colony, sending up new trunks as older trunks die off above ground

LESSON 3: Connectedness (teamwork) for survival

  • Quaking aspen colonies are virtually impossible to kill. Individual stems can be destroyed by humans, wildlife, and disease, but the underground root system is resistant to almost all these external circumstances.

LESSON 4: Resiliency through the collective

  • When an aspen tree dies, chemical signals from the tree to the roots stimulate new sprouts to start growing. Through this regrowth, an aspen clone usually lives much longer than its individual trees.

LESSON 5: Together a legacy can be created

  • Given the Aspen colony is one system, they help other trees in the grove. “If a tree 30 feet away is thirsty, the trees where water is more abundant will work in unison to pass water through the root system to the tree that needs it. If another tree is lacking in certain nutrients or minerals, these will be passed through the root system from one tree to the one in need," said Gail Lynn Goodwin of InspireMeToday.com. “

LESSON 6: Generosity and sharing serves all

·         Like the Aspen grove, to thrive means we are all connected, sharing and collaborating in the spirit of “It takes a village to raise a child.” Together things can be accomplished which can’t be done alone. 

We are enchanted with the Aspen Tree which reminds us of leadership lessons that leaders of the companies we have certified as “Benefit Corporations for Good” practice regularly.

Aspens are a truly a fitting metaphor for the emerging new Benefit Corporation business model!