What Is A Low Hanging Fruit
Low Hanging Fruit
The expression “low-hanging fruit” is used to describe achieving a result with little effort. This English phrase is something you might hear in a business meeting and was once a favorite vernacular of management consultants. An entrepreneur might use the idiom when talking about a new business opportunity in business-related English conversation.
I guess the original idea came from observing how easy it was to harvest the fruit hanging low on a tree vs. the difficulty of getting the fruit at the very top of a tree. Using this as an analogy; A business person might explain how a business is great because the idea delivers great benefits at little cost or effort.
To bring the idiom alive you really need to hear it being used naturally by a native English speaker. So today we will use the Adept English learning approach to practice speaking English fluently and learn some new phrases and business “speak” jargon.
Some of you might think "boring" and stop reading/listening. I can hear you saying “I will never be in a business meeting” or “I don’t care about idioms”. We understand, and before you go, we would ask that you think about the lesson this way.
You might never use low hanging fruit in your English conversations, but the rest of the audio English lesson which comprises some 1,228 words; 76 sentences; 12 paragraphs of English language. Is full of everyday English language, vocabulary and grammar that will be useful to you regardless of your interest in business parlance.
Audio Transcript: What Is A Low Hanging Fruit
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What Exactly is an Idiom?
So today, how about we talk about an English idiom? So if you’ve not come across the word ‘idiom’ before, I-D-I-O-M, it means a phrase or expression in English, which has two levels of meaning. There is a literal meaning – which you might recognise, you might understand from the words used. But often this literal meaning is not what’s intended by the speaker. Idioms have a second meaning, a figurative meaning. And this means they’re being used like a metaphor, or a symbol. A metaphor, M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R means when you say something like ‘He’s a snake’ or ‘She’s a pussy cat’.
You don’t mean the person is literally a snake or a cat – but rather that they have the characteristics of a snake or a cat. So a literal meaning would be ‘He is a snake’ and the ‘he’ there might be a boa constrictor or a python. Whereas ‘he’s a snake’ is more likely to mean, if it’s a person you can’t trust him, or he’s slippery. Well, then that’s a figurative meaning. So idioms are phrases, things we say, which have both a literal and a figurative or metaphoric meaning.
Let’s Harvest the Low-Hanging Fruit
So today’s phrase – heard usually in a work context, in offices up and down the land - ‘to harvest the low-hanging fruit’. So ‘Let’s harvest the low-hanging fruit first’ - is something that your manager might say at work. Well, you might be working in a vineyard and your job is picking grapes. In which case, this phrase might have a literal meaning. What your boss is saying therefore is first of all, pick the bunches of grapes which are easiest ones to reach. So ‘to harvest’ means to take the fruit or the vegetables off the plant, or out of the ground, so that you can store them, eat them, sell them, whatever is your business. An alternative way of saying it might be ‘I’ll pick the low-hanging fruit’. So ‘to pick’ is what you do when you get your tomatoes off your tomato plants.
I’m really pleased – it’s mid-September and my tomato plants are still going. What does ‘low-hanging’ mean? Well, lots of things can be ‘low-hanging’! ‘Low’, L-O-W is the opposite of high. Low means ‘near the ground’. And ‘hanging’ comes from the verb ‘to hang’, H-A-N-G. So if something is ‘hanging’, it means it’s suspended, it’s fixed at the top and free to flap around and move around at the bottom. So you would hang curtains or you would hang out your clothes, if you wanted them to dry, perhaps. So ‘low-hanging fruit’ means just the fruit that is easiest to pick, easiest to collect.
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Working in a Vineyard?
OK, so if you’re working in a vineyard, that might be literal, but most people aren’t working in a vineyard, picking grapes – though it is probably the time of year where this happens. So hello to you if you are working in a vineyard, harvesting grapes. But for everyone else, especially those of you who work in an office, what would your boss mean if he or she said ‘I want you to harvest the low hanging fruit’? Well, what they would mean would be talking about a piece of work – do the parts that are easiest first and which deliver the most value first of all. So if you were working on cutting some costs, then the ‘low hanging fruit’ would mean ‘look at the big costs first’, look at the places where the biggest savings can be made and it’s....where it’s easiest to do. ‘Low hanging fruit’ means the goals that can be most easily achieved. In business, you might have customers who are really keen to have your product and they’re likely to buy quite a lot from you. So it makes sense to spend time with these customers, keeping them happy before you deal with the more difficult or demanding customers, who might not buy very much of your product. Whatever you’re doing, it makes sense to do the biggest, easiest things first, the ones that make the biggest difference. If you’re trying to save money for example, then ‘harvesting the low hanging fruit’ would be looking at the biggest costs first. It’s like if you’re trying to free up more memory on your mobile phone – then you might look first at what apps are using the most memory, rather than the ones which look...look as if they’re using a teeny amount of memory. So ‘harvesting the low-hanging fruit’.
Harvesting the Low-Hanging Fruit in the Office
However, this phrase ‘to harvest the low hanging fruit’ is a term that you’d hear mostly in a business context. It used to be a phrase that I really didn’t like, when I heard it in the office, when I heard it in a work context. It would make me go ‘Uggh’. I’ve come to terms with it, I think, now. There are certain contexts where you may hear this used, that could give offence. If you’re talking about groups of people as ‘low-hanging fruit’ - say if they are customers or people you might want to date. You wouldn’t necessarily be pleased to find that….find that you’re thought of in that way, as ‘a piece of low-hanging fruit’! So I think it’s a phrase that we need to be a little bit careful with. But it is something you’ll hear in a work context, from time to time. So there we are. Let’s all go off and ‘harvest some low-hanging fruit’.
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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Danger! There Is A Risk That You Sound Cheesy!
Yes, another classic English analogy. How is it possible to ”sound” cheesy you might well ask. Well, the expression “sound cheesy” is really nothing at all to do with cheese. The phrase means you are trying too hard at doing something, not being subtle in your approach and coming across as inauthentic.
This is quite a difficult idea to explain, but to continue the context of our business setting. If you imagine a business meeting, you are attending. In the meeting you hear a young management executive pitching a new or radical idea. They are using terms like “low hanging fruit” and “easy” it will be a big “win”.
To a listener (at the imaginary meeting) you might see this effort as trying to hard too elicit the positive response they want from the other members of the meeting. The speaker sounds insincere and is trying too hard to convince people. For most people, a good business idea once explained in simple English, does not need a lot of clever words to convince people of the benefits. The idea will sell itself.
So what I am trying to say here? There is a time and place to use idioms like “low hanging fruit” probably best used one-on-one when generating support with work colleagues over a beer/glass of wine. In a big important meeting you run the danger of sounding cheesy and undermining your argument.