Nurture Your Unlikely Ideas

A number of years ago a turtle showed up in our Brooklyn backyard. My husband thought it had belonged to a next-door neighbor’s son. They’d moved some years earlier, and he had been very upset that he couldn’t find his pet.

It was exceedingly strange to see this critter appear from time to time. I was frightened the first time, as it moved a small empty planter aside as it walked—I thought it might have been a rat. I named it Anatole, for no good reason other than it popped into my head. The new neighbors (the third owners since the boy’s family left) looked up the turtle, but I forget what kind it was. One time we put it in our daughter’s kiddie pool, and it was happy as could be.

For some reason, neither of us ever thought to keep Anatole as a pet. We just let him roam between our houses. I guess we assumed that since he’d survived so many years on his own, he could continue to do so. When the neighbors moved, the new owners started a major reconstruction project… and we never saw Anatole again. We presume he perished under a pile of rubble.

So what does a turtle have to do with managing? Sometimes a new idea or way of doing things pops up from the least likely place. Given how busy everyone is these days, doing more with less and worrying about the state of the economy, we can often ignore what’s in plain sight—or we look at it, give it some attention, but never own it. Then it perishes under the rubble of our usual day.

You see where I’m going with this. When the turtle idea shows up, give it some real attention, care and feeding. You may decide to let it go off on its own, or you may discover something that brings lasting value to your organization and to you. After all, the tortoise did win the race.

Barbara Kurka, an experienced HR professional, offers executive coaching; management training, and HR consulting, the latter uniquely geared toward small businesses. She can be reached at

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