Brad Johnston – A Social Innovation Gardener

Brad is an Ontario public servant who decided to step outside his comfort zone.  Without authority, mandate or stategic plan he is successfully gathering fellow social innovators within the Ontario Public Service.  Brad is keen to connect with public servants everywhere as well as those citizens interested in change labs and co-creation so don't hesitate to track him down.

Here is a recent essay Brad Johnson wrote for the ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) Institute's Fieldnotes.

Check out his insights about tending to a garden of social innovation within the public service:

  • People won’t see what is obvious to you. You see what could be, what is ready to happen, where the potential is. Allow that people see ideas in their own time.
  • I draw mind maps of the ecosystem when I meet with people. I plan my meetings to ensure there is a white board in the room and I take my own markers. I draw the picture of the ecosystem – and the idea wanting to emerge – and we look at it together to co-create.
  • All gardening is personal. Don’t try gardening the whole organization. Tend to people and situations one at a time and spend time meeting them where they are. They are part of the ecosystem you need to understand.
  • Don’t confuse your role with that of Nature. Let Nature grow the garden. Give up being attached to results. It is much easier and more creative when you are surprised by what happens next.
  • Non-attachment to results means not chasing people; go in the direction where the energy is moving. This is easier when there are many seedlings to pay attention to. Visit the herbs, the flowers, and the potatoes. It is easier to leave one plant when there are others to visit.
  • Work with the other gardeners in the ecosystem. Be transparent about the different roles you play. Having no authority, beyond the value of the ideas I offer, allowed me to work across the silos in our organization in ways not available to my colleagues.
  • Use the dynamics of the U-Process. I am always gently "Sensing" the field of the garden in the Ontario government, in Ontario and internationally. I allow myself space to "Presence" when I become quiet and just listen. Then something “pops” and I know the next action to take. I take action immediately, like the release of the arrow.
  • It’s not just about shooting arrows. There is making compost and mulching new ideas and relationships to make sure they have the best chance to grow. This means, for example, ghost writing the article for our internal newsletter.
  • Gardens have regular seasons and cycles of growth. In organizational ecosystems the seasons can overlap and one cycle may be at its height when another is slowing. Hold in your awareness of the long cycle that the warmth of spring follows the darkness of winter.
  • Gardening should feel like flow. If it feels like you’re pushing a boulder in a swamp, then you’re trying to do Nature’s role. If it feels like work – stop, breathe out, give up on the result and go back to "Sensing." It takes a lot of trust to give up, but your role as the gardener is to water the plants, not to build a tomato.

You can read Brad's full essay in the Stories section of ALIA's website.

Related Posts:

Who Invented the Committee?

Adam Kahane – Becoming Visible – Power and Love

Christian Bason – Becoming Visible 2011 – Co-Creation


 Share with others

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>