We live and work within ecosystems, not machines. Thus, if you want to make a sustainable change, you are more likely to succeed if you think and act as a gardener, not a mechanic.
But how do you do that? When I first started to advocate a gardening approach to change, I thought the gardening analogy would be in itself sufficient to stimulate creativity.
And this was true when I ran for clients. It only took one participant, to come up with a gardening-related analogy, to spark everyone else's thoughts, with an occasional nudge from me.
However, I started to get a flow of requests to flesh out the gardening analogy. To provide some nudges, especially for those with no experience or interest in gardening. So that's what I've done in my book, Gardeners not Mechanics: how to cultivate change at work.
The first part of the book discusses the four critical characteristics of ecosystems:
Limits of Control.
In the second part, I set a framework of analogies, entitled The Elements of Gardening. I based the structure on a series of blogposts by the legendary English gardener, Christopher Lloyd (no relation).
There are ten elements of gardening:
Prepare the Soil
Ensure Good Health
Enjoy Your Harvest
Scientists and innovators often use analogies to explore and discover new ideas by using concepts that are already familiar. For example, asking yourself, "what would prepare the soil" mean in the context of a change you want to make at work?
You'll soon find your mind going down pathways you would not otherwise explore. It's a particularly powerful way of thinking when you do it in collaboration with others. No analogy is perfect, but you can push it until it breaks and you will get a lot of new insights along the way.
So how about you do that right now:
Think of a change, in the past, that you wanted to make.
How successful was it?
Was it sustained?
Did you prepare the soil?
Could you have done a better job of preparing the ground and if so, how?