Episode #23: John O’Brien – Helping people maximise their potential for good

26 February 2019

John O'Brien MBE

In this episode, I talk to John O’Brien, an ethics and purpose champion, co-author of ‘the power of purpose’, and the managing partner of the One Hundred Agency.

John was responsible for what the government rated as the largest mobilisation of volunteering since world war 2. He was a founder of the Mosaic network, and numerous other charitable and entrepreneurial ventures.

In this interview, we talk about how he got to where he is, and what he learned along the way. We talk about what made some of those campaigns particularly successful, and what we can learn from them in relation to some of the burning issues of the day.

John is a thoughtful and highly engaging interviewee and we cover a lot of ground. I think you’ll get a huge amount from our discussion.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young John O’Brien as he left school and embarked upon adult life? (1:29)

The startlingly different direction that John took after his first job, and why it was both the natural place to be but also slightly uncomfortable (4:54)

What was the enduring impact that came out of John’s years with the armed forces? (9:20)

Have we, as a society, become soft as a result of our recent success as a society in avoiding major challenges such as wars etc? (11:13)

The circumstances that saw John leaving the military life he loved and getting a job at a local charity (15:48)

John’s move that finally led him to join Business in the Community, and his involvement with programmes arising from the direct interests of the Prince of Wales (20:26)

What were the enduring elements from John’s time with BITC that stayed with him? (25:49)

What perspective does his history with Mosaic give John in relation to some of our national challenges in relation to national identity? (28:51)

John’s creation of the Jubilee Hour, and how it became so hugely successful (31:24)

Was it a one-time opportunity, or was it something that could be replicated in the future? (35:30)

What’s the value of companies adopting a corporate purpose? (37:37)

What’s driving the interest in purpose in those businesses that are responding to the agenda? (40:55)

What is John’s personal purpose? (50:10)

What one practical change would John like to bring about in the world before hanging up his gloves? (50:56)

What advice would John give to his younger self? (52:00)

Impressive change makers John has been influenced by? (52:27)

What mistake did John make that led to some better outcome or personal growth? (54:45)

What one habit would John like to change? (55:41)

What book, or books, has changed John’s attitudes or John’s life? (56:11)

Advice John would give to young change makers (59:24)


John on twitter https://twitter.com/johnwritlarge?lang=en

One Hundred Agency https://www.onehundredagency.com

John's Book - The Power of Purpose https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Purpose-Steps-Unleash-Business/dp/1292202041

Anita Roddick https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Roddick

Sir Tim Smit https://www.edenproject.com/eden-story/about-us/sir-tim-smit-kbe

Caroline Casey’s TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/caroline_casey_looking_past_limits?language=en

The Gift, Lewis Hyde https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gift-Creativity-Artist-Modern-Vintage/dp/0307279502/

The Social Animal, David Brooks https://www.amazon.co.uk/Social-Animal-Story-Success-Happens/dp/1780720378/

Bad Blood, John Carreyrou https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Blood-Secrets-Silicon-Startup/dp/1509868062/