We think that apples come from trees, but they also come from scientists. At the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center, they don’t just grow things, they develop them. Their star product is the Honeycrisp apple, but they also have engineered the Zestar and several other branded apples and grow 316 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.

In apple development, horticulturalists are striving for a winning combination of three factors: 1) the flavor (which includes color, crispness, sweet/tart, juicy, firmness, etc.); 2) the shelf life (where Honeycrisp shines), and the growing season. Scientists have been able to extend the harvest for apples in Minnesota from August to October, allowing farmers to maximize the use of the equipment and labor rather than having their entire crop condensed into a short window.

It reminded me of the metaphorical “three-legged stool” that we attempted to balance in college admissions: the number of students, their academic profile, and the net revenue that each contributed after scholarships. We could easily achieve two of the criteria, but achieving all three proved challenging. I imagine the same is true of apple grafting.

Organizations often focus on one or two metrics, but the secret is in the elusive blending of attributes. What is the flavorful combination of characteristics you are seeking to attain? Identify the trifecta your organization needs to create its own winning “Honeycrisp.”

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