This post is in response to Kathy Sierra's blog post: (Read her post first... so this will make more sense). http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/01/death_by_riskav.html
I liked the "tree" analogy (or is it a metaphor, I always get those mixed up) and I would even take it a couple steps further.
I recently "read" (on audio CD) a book called "The Innovators Solution" by Clayton M. Christensen. In the book, he talks about Disruptive versus Sustaining Innovations and this can extend your tree idea.
Big companies (if they are any good) typically build their "tree" or systems around Sustaining innovations. These are Incremental improvements to existing products in existing markets. These are easy to see and, to use the analogy, are like the leaves collecting water and sunlight to feed the branches and trunk of the tree.
Disruptive innovations are usually for new markets (which "the branches" find hard to quantify or understand due to a lack of history in the markets) and often are for new (breakthrough?) products.
The "Solution" (as I interpret Clayton's book) is to plant the seeds separate from the main tree (spin them off?) and run them differently from the main business.
Clayton's overall suggestion is that to sustain overall growth you need to be planting seeds and protecting their growth because eventually the main tree is not going to be able to adapt and it will die!
Back to the tree analogy ... Leaves are workers supporting the operation of the tree. SEEDS are the innovations or ideas that can be grown into new trees (businesses). What do you think?
Good to have Kathy back on her blog!
Keep up the good work !