I’ve just had one of the most blissful days in recent memory. I decided, as far as I can tell, independantly to spend my day off doing something that I would ordinarily regard as a chore. I decided to build a garden. And I learned four important lessons that relate to designing organisations:

1. It’s got to come from you. I’ve often actively ignored, left to others, or just plain thought gardening was not for me. Today the motivation came from me. I’d decided for whatever reason that I wanted to sit in a pretty garden surrounded by herbs and stuff growing. Deciding to do something independantly yields much greater personal satisfaction, increases your desire to do it, and learn more about it, and you get more done! This is an important lesson because organisations are so often ‘changed’, ‘done to’ often from stakeholders with poor understanding of the people’s readiness or wwillingness for change. So understanding individual and collective motivation is vital to creative and meaninful change.

2. Assumptions are a dangerous thing. For my whole life I’d assumed that gardening was not for me and never would be. I’d reinforced that message by living with people who also weren’t into it (and I’ve moved house almost twenty times!) Perhaps I could have been persuaded another way, but today I sort of stumbled into it, and gently gently found myself loving every moment of it. Before I knew it I was chipping away at those assumptions until none were left! How can we help other people break down their assumptions? How can we help them see what might be good for them? Perhaps it’s only through trying, but finding the motivation to try, first.

3. Learning something new from scratch. With no guidance I had to figure it all out myself. Suprisingly I remembered snippets of Radio Four’s Gardeners’ Question time, endured on long sunday car journeys, and things I’d learned as a child, but mostly the sheer thrill and sense of flow that comes from just making it up and seeing what works was my approach today. And this is probably something that’s overlooked with innovation. So many companies try to find the perfect process, copying their competitiors or carbon copying the latest management texts. But with so much focus on a knowledge economy, it’s time to bring back some old fashioned improvisation, that is after all, how we learned as children to do 90% of what we do everyday.

4. Finding beauty in planning for the long term. Gardening is about the long term, and I’d assumed there was no short term benefit, aesthetically. But I was wrong, the foundations of a garden can be beautiful, the planning, organisation, and the process of preparation and nurturing is hugely satisfying. I’d always thought bulbs especially were the stupidest thing ever. Why would anyone hide this thing in soil and wait a whole year to see if it turns out like the picture promised on the packet? Innovation is precicely this feeling. Why would you nurture something with no apparent short term benefits? But of course there are benefits, if not the learning from trying something new, there’s the promise of bigger rewards over time.

I’d recommend you to try something new sometime soon, let me know what you learn.