“Low hanging fruit” is a phrase I’ve heard, used by managers at the hospital where I work, regarding tasks that need to be accomplished.
Whenever I encounter any new word or phrase, first I guess the meaning, based on the context. Then, I research it, to check my assumptions.
I haven’t researched “low hanging fruit” yet. Before I do, here are my guesses about why people at work are using that phrase:
- There are too many things to do and not enough resources (time, people, etc.) to do them all.
- “Low hanging fruit” are those tasks that are within reach and achievable.
- Management is encouraging people to do those things.
- At the same time, we should also be aware of those tasks and goals that are further out of reach, and also valuable.
- Beware of focusing on low-hanging fruit, exclusively.
Again, these are guesses of mine. Let’s see what I can find, by googling “low hanging fruit.”
Aha! That was a fruitful search. I’m choosing this low-hanging beauty:
We have Mother Nature to thank for the expression low hanging fruit. A fruit-bearing tree often contains some branches low enough for animals and humans to reach without much effort. The fruit contained on these lower branches may be not be as ripe or attractive as the fruit on higher limbs, but it is usually more abundant and easier to harvest. From this we get the popular expression, which generally means selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort.
In business, the term low hanging fruit is often associated with the sale of consumer products or services. Sales professionals, especially those who are just entering the field, are encouraged to seek out the easiest customers first. Competitors may spend more of their time seeking out the higher commission sales of higher “customer branches”, leaving the low hanging fruit behind for others to claim. Parents seeking low-cost insurance for school-age children, for example, may be considered low hanging fruit by insurance companies.
Another use of the expression can be found in the political arena. A politician may set a number of easily attainable goals, and accomplish them with minimal effort. The voters may perceive the politician’s actions as proof of his strong work ethic, but in reality he only reached for the political benefits of low hanging fruit. Critics often use the expression to describe someone who chooses a sure thing over a more difficult but more rewarding pursuit.
The idea of low hanging fruit can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, it is usually plentiful and often ignored by those looking for more attractive offerings. But low hanging fruit can also be seen as a negative, since the picker understands how low the quality of the fruit can be and picks it anyway. Someone who consistently chooses the immediate gratification could be seen by others as lazy or unambitious.
Critics of the low hanging fruit business model point to the examples of real fruit harvesters.Orchard workers routinely begin picking at the highest point of a tree, where the fruit has been exposed to the most sunlight and is usually the ripest. It makes sense to pick the low hanging fruit last, since it requires more time to ripen. In a business or social sense, it also makes sense to avoid the easiest options if a little more effort and time would result in a much better payoff.
— wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions (see here for original)
How do you think I did, with my guessing? (I think I did pretty damn good.)
There are two pieces of low-hanging fruit in my mind, this morning. The first one is showing you some photos I took yesterday, when I met my sister-in-law, Linda, for a belated birthday breakfast celebration, at the Neighborhood Restaurant in Somerville, Massachusetts, USA.
Here’s some fruit I want to pick, from those photos:
- The Neighborhood Restaurant makes its own Cream of Wheat!!!
- The first fruit you see, above, is a pumpkin.
- Above our heads, in the restaurant’s outside patio, hung grapes in various stages of ripening.
- The last photo shows the jelly they make at The Neighborhood, from the grapes they grow.
- I love my sister-in-law Linda.
Before and after my breakfast with Linda, I grabbed these low-hanging shots, in the neighborhood of The Neighborhood:
I should explain one of the top-hanging pictures (even if it takes me a little bit of effort). The first image shows a pink bin –in the back seat of my car — containing old Classics Illustrated comic books my older sister Ellen and I read, when we were growing up. Ellen had requested that I bring those comic books with me to the breakfast to give to Linda. Linda and I got so caught up in catching up with each other, that when I went back to my car, Voila! The bin was still there.
Those comic books may have been low-hanging fruit in my mind, before the breakfast, but I totally lost track of them. And when I found them, still hanging around in my car, Linda was gone.
No worries, though. I simply drove the comic books over to Ellen and Linda’s place. Here’s a shot of them, before I gave them to Ellen:
After that, I drove over to visit my friend Barbara, who has been in my life as long as those comic books, and who has made previous appearances in this blog (here, here, here, here, here, and here ). I was too busy talking to Barbara, as we walked around her neighborhood, to take any low- or high-hanging photographs.
I did grab one more shot, yesterday, when I got home:
Those are the top branches of the tree behind our home. For the three years we’ve lived here, I’ve parked my car beneath its branches, experienced its beauty, and dealt with bird poop on my car. Earlier this summer, my boyfriend Michael noticed the tree was dying. Those of us who live here (including my downstairs neighbor, Karen) discussed possibilities and decided the tree needs to be taken down.
The removal of that tree has been low-hanging fruit in my mind, since we made that decision.
I have two more days, to enjoy the presence of that tree. It’s not a fruit tree, but I’ve been grateful for the fruits of its living, in my neighborhood.
Thanks to that tree (and others), to Linda, Ellen, and Barbara, to Neighborhoods everywhere, to wise Geeks, to those who seek low and high-hanging fruit, to Classics I’ve read (Illustrated or not), and to you — of course! — for hanging in my neighborhood, today.