Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year with A New Perspective

To survive in these tough times, innovators must be persistent. We angle, cajole, network, present and smile our way into opportunities to share our ideas. This determination and spunk is part of what makes an innovator who they are.

But many times that drive is overtaken by pride and self importance. It happens so easily. We start out simply pushing an idea forward and before we know it, we have convinced ourselves that we deserve the success and the rewards that will eventually come.

So in this new year, I would like to present the antidote to this prideful tendency among us innovative types. The cure is brokenness. BROKENNESS???? "What kind of cure is that?" you might ask.

I asked the same question till earlier this year. That was when I read a book called "The Tale of Three Kings" by Gene Edwards. I had heard about this book before, but God brought it to my attention through a sermon, a friend's recommendation over coffee and then through a vague memory of seeing this book in our storage closet. Well, my memory was accurate and I read the book quickly.

This book takes a unique look at Saul, David and Absalom. The first was an angry king who threw spears, the second was a broken king and the third was a rebellious king. The book shows David's brokenness and then challenges the reader to consider a broken life before God.

Up to that point, in many ways I had allowed the pride of innovation to rule the day in my life. But God used this book to show me what it meant to be broken. And what I have found in the process is that a broken person is an even stronger innovator. When you are broken before God, you accept that all ideas come from Him. You also accept that only the ones that God blesses should succeed.

A broken spirit does not push beyond God's direction and moves forward with courage under God's leading.

As each of you innovators begin your new year of work, what will be the driving force behind your work. Will it be your pride and self reliance? Or will you live a broken life before the Lord and ask Him to guide your efforts?

Blessings as each of you innovate in this new year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Innovator's Christmas Prayer

Dear God,

It's been a busy year and I haven't stopped and to pray like this nearly as often as I had hoped.

But this morning as I drink my coffee and reflect I want to thank you for the blessings in my life.

I want to thank you for the inspiration on those late nights where so many ideas were born.

You gave me hope to expect good from the most difficult circumstances that I faced.

You showed me the right timing to move forward on that exciting project.

You guided me to fix the key things and flex on the rest.

You provided the courage to be authentic in my relationships and my efforts.

You showed me that you can use art, cell phones, conferences, and countless other tools to impact people's lives.

You encouraged me to dig deep as I sought the new ideas and inspiration to work.

You celebrated with me on the good days.

You challenged me to be risky and dangerous in my efforts to serve you.

Maybe we have been talking more than I thought this year God. So many times you are there and I don't even realize it. In those brainstorming sessions, the early morning breakfast meetings, the quite times reading a book, the long talks with friends . . . you made all those possible. Thank you.

But as I sit here typing on Christmas Eve, the innovation that I am most appreciative of is your greatest gift. I am baffled and amazed at your majesty that would design the incarnation. Your perfect design for my life included your Son coming to Earth and saving me from sin.

Thank you for the hope and courage that you have given me this year and I pray that it would increase as I strive to serve you in the coming year.


Monday, December 15, 2008

How to destroy an idea in 10 minutes. . .

You wake up one day and you decide that you have had it with change. You commit to avoid anything that looks new or different. You don't quite know why, but it is as real to you as the steaming coffee you hold in your hand. You say with conviction, "Today I am going to be happy with the same things that I enjoyed yesterday!"

Once you arrive at your the office, and you settle into your chair to go through emails. But to your dismay, the first thing to pop up in your email box is a note from one of your "innovative" co-workers. You hesitate to open it, but in the end your curiosity gets the best of you.

So you click, you read and then you sit back in your chair and think. In the email your friend shared with you a new idea. The friend shares it with passion and with quite a few BOLD words and !!!!!!!! - you can tell he is excited.

You also know that this idea will change your world. If you join him on this adventure, the whole department will be impacted. The whole organization might adopt this concept and change.

So you think . . .

Then it comes to you. Instead of doing all that work to join this friend and his new idea, there is an easy out. You look at the email again and you say, "Wow, he has guts recommending this. I wonder what his motives are? I wonder if he really has our best interests in mind or if he is just looking for some more of the limelight?"

You continue your internal interrogation of this co-worker and within a few minutes you have accomplished your goal. Your mind convicted him of being self-centered, ambitious and prideful.

You say, "There that was easy!" and you continue on going through your email.

Change averted . . . idea destroyed . . . innovator tarnished.

Author Note: We have all had moments like I have written about above. You can admit it, don't be afraid. In those moments where we fear a new idea or a change, we decide to turn someone's passion into pride and in the process we turn our own status quo behavior into a humble badge of honor. By judging motives we hold great power to destroy people and ideas.

Why do we do this? There are many reasons. The important thing is that we understand our fears and our reactions so that we can change them. If this little story connects with you, share your experience . . .

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Don't Think Because You Might Have To Act

So you come up with this idea that really has some potential. You go over it in your mind and the more you think about it the more excited you become. But the bubble of your excitement is quickly pierced when you realize that if this idea ever comes out of your mouth you will have to do it. Then in fear you stuff that idea deep down and breath a sigh of relief that it never made it out of your mouth.

Does this sound familiar? There is probably no one reading this blog posting that does not relate.

We live with the reality that an idea shared is an assignment given. People like our ideas but the message is clear, "Don't bring new ideas into the world unless you are ready to carry them out."

But there are a few big problems with this and I am afraid that this mentality has kept many from bringing innovative solutions into the light of day. Here are a few issues:
1. Many times the person with the idea is not the one gifted in its execution. God may have someone waiting in the wings to implement if only the innovator would be willing to share it.
2. New ideas don't always necessitate action. Sometimes a new idea helps to create different thinking and will have other benefits.
3. New ideas challenge people to step outside of their comfort zones. If people only bring up ideas they think they can execute, then people will not be challenged.

So next time you stuff that idea down because you are afraid you will be asked to make it a reality, remember that there are other values and reasons for being generous with your innovations!

Hope Expects Good Responses

We got some great responses to the Hope Expects Good posting. That is one of the themes that is in our upcoming book about how we view truth (more to come on that soon).

Take a minute to check out some of the great responses from readers like you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hope Expects Good

Dean Merrill wrote in The God Who Won’t Let Go, “Hope is actually very close to fear. Fear looks at a set of grim prospects and says ‘It might fail.’ Hope looks at the same set of grim prospects . . . and says, ‘It might work.’ Hope and fear are thus like two ships passing in the night but headed in opposite directions. They are at the same dark murky point in the ocean. But by morning they will be miles apart.” (p. 23-24)

Mindy found a definition of hope that is very simple: Hope expects good. I love it because it is so easy to apply. When you wake up in the morning do you expect good or evil? Is hope guiding your life or is fear?

Lets apply this to innovation. The innovator is a person who has learned to hope. They expect good out of every new project, strategy, line of investigation. Hopefully they are realists, but that doesn't stop them from having an attitude defined by hope.

What does it mean for you if you live expecting good?
1. You see opportunities when others see brick walls.
2. You give people a second, third, fourth chance when others wouldn't.
3. You probably smile a bit more.
4. You have a determination and persistence that allows you to persevere through major challenges.
5. You are close to the Father's heart - that is how He sees each of us.

So as you read this, are you expecting good from your day or evil? Is your work being defined by hope or by fear?

I pray that it is by hope - the hope that comes from the heart of God.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Are you being eaten alive by criticism?

Every innovator will be criticized. No matter how nice you are, how loving, how considerate, how calculating or how sympathetic. The simple reason is that change and new ideas bring criticism. There are people who do not want change, or maybe it would be better to say that they are truly afraid of it. Out of that resistance and fear will come criticism.

I am listening to a book called "Tribe" by Seth Godin. It is an excellent resource on innovation and I will highlight it next weekend. One of the things he says in the book is that the fear of criticism keeps us from stepping out and doing the innovative things that are necessary to move our causes forward.

In my life, I will admit that I am very afraid of criticism. It is like termites eating away at me from the inside where no one else can see it. Many times I have ideas that I just don't feel I can share because of the criticism that might come my way. I don't think I am alone. I think that my fears are pretty normal.

Moreover, I think that under similar fears are hiding hundreds - maybe thousands - of good ideas. We are being eaten alive by criticism or the fear of it. Our organizations are languishing because we will not share our breakthrough ideas. Our causes are stagnant because we will not put forth the new thinking. Our relationships suffer because we will not share the ideas that might bring insight and new horizons.

So what should we fearful yet creative people do? Should we throw off all inhibition and share everything? Should we clamp up and wait for people to ask us for our ideas?

I think this particular challenge calls for a few things:

1. Love: We need to bring our ideas out in love and kindness for those who might struggle with them. We need to realize that there can be many reasons for criticism that we do not understand or appreciate.
2. Courage: If God is calling us to innovate in a certain way, we need to be brave enough to bring our idea out even if we know we will be criticized.
3. Dependence: We need to know that the success of our idea rests completely in God's capable hands - not our energetic efforts. We need to give our idea to God and allow Him to bring it out.

So if you are afraid of sharing your idea today, take courage. One of the things that I daily try to remind myself is that my identity as a person is not in what others think of me. My identity is in Christ and His love and care for me.

Now that we have talked about that, are there any ideas that you feel God is asking you to share? Share them with this community and ask for prayer as you pursue them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Clearly Seeing New Opportunities

One of the seminal jobs of an innovator is to gaze into that cloudy thing we call the future and intuit new opportunities. The ability to see where something is going and apply that to a specific audience or a specific challenge is what defines an innovator.

Now that means many times we will be wrong or at least not as right as we wish we were. There will be times when we got the opportunity right, but someone else got there first. Or there may be times when we see the challenge that needs to be met, but the audience is unwilling to go there with us. That's all part of the game.

One of those innovators that I have been so impressed with over the years is Phil Vischer. He saw a huge audience of people looking for Christian kid's content and so he created Veggie Tales as a way to meet the opportunity. But even though he lost Veggie Tales in the end through a series of challenges, he has now picked up on a new innovation.

Phil Vischer has launched something called JellyTelly. This new innovation is a step ahead of many others and has some huge potential. Some of Phil's challenges with Veggie Tales was in the area of distribution. So with JellyTelly, he is creating wholesome kids programming delivered straight over the Internet instead of through cable or DVD. Kids can watch new programs for 1/2 hour each day right now and as he is able, the new company will expand that and provide more programming.

Not only will this give young writers and producers a whole new outlet for creating kids programming that reflects Christ, but it gives parents another way to engage their children with the Bible.

So for 2.99 a month, a family can access daily programing and games that reflect their values. We will see if Phil has identified an opportunity that the audience will grab hold of. But whether or not that happens, Phil has shown himself to be a world class innovator in his work and faith.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Billy Graham's 90th birthday

One of the great innovators in modern evangelism is Billy Graham. He turns 90 on Nov 7 and the BGEA has set up a cool way for you to share your memories of him or a birthday wish. Watch this video:

And then go to to leave your special message.

Upcoming Writers Conference

I would like to share about a ministry that we support - MAI (Media Associates International). They hold a key conference for writers from around the world every 3 years called Littworld. That conference is a place for writers to learn, get plugged in and to move forward in their careers in their respective countries.

Littworld will be held in Kenya in 2009. Read a bit more about it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Relentlessly Broken

Recently a friend of mine said something to me that really stuck. He has been going through some difficult times and having to trust God in some large ways. As God is working in his life, he realized that maybe this brokenness and trust isn't just for a season. Maybe it is for always.

You see, he shared with me that as life got harder and he trusted God with more, he secretly thought that some day God would back off and let him run things again. God was trying to teach him a lesson but didn't want to run things this way all the time.

But then my friend came to a realization that has hit me very hard. "Maybe God wants us to be broken and dependent all the time!" Wow, that is hard to even contemplate, let alone live up to. Where would I even start?

We have this strange game going on with God where we let Him run certain areas of our life for a while and then demand them back. As if we were doing God a favor by allowing Him to take part.

So what does this have to do with innovation? Plenty. What I find myself doing as I strive to come up with new ideas and concepts is best described in a simple list:
1. I have a problem/opportunity that I am trying to figure out.
2. I struggle with a solution and then remember to ask God.
3. God leads and I follow . . .
4. Then I thank God for the idea and say, "I'll run with it from here."

In Christian circles we can get caught in a trap of treating God as the solutions fairy. When we need a new idea, a solution, a fresh perspective, we go to God in prayer. However, as soon as we feel that we have an answer we remove it from the feet of Jesus and we place it at our own.

I can think of countless times that I have done this in my own life. I want God's help but not His leadership. I want His vision but not His direction.

We have to be willing to relentlessly submit to God . . . at every step of every idea/action/task. We have to be willing to live - like my friend shared - broken lives all the time and not just when we are learning something or going through a hard time.

God wants all of our ideas, our efforts our leadership to be bent to His vision, mission and will. Are we willing to live lives like that as we innovate?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Birth through Relationship

When you consider all the ideas that have been birthed the reality that we often overlook is that most of them probably had a key relationship as part of their lifeblood. There was someone who encouraged that idea-generator. Maybe they took that person to breakfast. Possibly they played basketball with them weekly. It could have taken the form of a Biblestudy.

But it is not hard for me to stipulate that few ideas come in isolation. That is why I have launched a new survey question on the blog. Look on the right side of the page at the top and you will see it.

I am asking you to share how the mentor in your life has helped you.

I have been so blessed by the mentors in my life. As I look around, I think we need a lot more mentoring going on. People are hard pressed to find someone willing to invest that kind of time on either end.

As you answer the question, be thinking about this issue of mentoring. We will be talking about it more in the coming weeks/months.

Show and Tell

One of the critical things about innovation is sharing. It's amazing how many innovations are the result of other ideas. That's how the system works. But so many times the good ideas get bottled up and stuck somewhere . . . maybe even in someone!

So I can't say enough about being a generous mind. When an innovation works, we should be evanglists for the idea. You can share it with friends, online and in conferences. There are millions of ways to share ideas.

One of our facebook group members brought a new survey to my attention. Tony Morgan, pastor of New Spring Church, and Outreach Magazine are looking for innovations in the local church setting. Have you seen any? Would you take some time to share them on this survey?

Click here to go to the survey.

Are you FREE?

Everyone has that sweet spot of creativity. What is it for you? What is that perfect mojo experience where the creative juices are flowing and your ideas just fly onto the paper? Over the past months we did a survey on our blog about this question.

I am most innovative when . . .
I am under pressure: 8%
I have Starbucks coffee: 11%
I am free to be creative: 58%
I know the stakes: 20%
As I look at some of the input, I have to think, "What makes us free to be creative?" What gives us the liberty to think differently and risk it all.
Here are some of those magical environmental elements for you to consider:
People feel free to create when . . .
1. there is acceptance and trust.
2. ideas are valued in and of themselves.
3. there is silence and peace.
4. a goal exists that is larger than any one person.
5. there is an "others" focus rather than a selfish focus.
So are you creating environments like this? How could you begin to create this type of freedom?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beyond Timing

One of our readers (Samuel) made a great comment and asked a very good question. He commented that sometimes innovation isn't a matter of timing as much as it is cycles. I believe what he was getting at is that sometimes innovations come for a time and then cycle out - maybe to come back again later.

As I have thought about this, I think that we should consider the cycles of innovation as well as the timing for it. It is possible that an innovation is developed, goes through a time of growth and usefullness and then disappears.

Is it bad if an idea has a lifespan? No, I don't think so. Since the world's situation and people's needs change, ideas are bound to die. But the exciting thing is that idea never really dies. In fact, it lies in wait for the next opportunity to be useful.

Mindy and I talk all the time about what it means to be generous with what you know. I think that this concept of cycles is a prime example. If you are generous with your ideas and share them, then they may provide innovation to generations in various cycles long after you are no longer around to instigate them.

So lets think not only of the timing of ideas but also about how those ideas cycle in and out of our lives.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Timing is Everything

I have been thinking a lot about timing in recent days. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 has the famous chapter on timing. It starts in verse 1 by saying, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"

Those words written so long ago still amaze me. In my own mind, I fight these words because I want the timing and seasons of an activity to be up to me. But when I read this I remember that I do not control the timing of so many things.

As that reality dawns on me and I consider again my role in the world, I am able to put myself in a right relationship with the God who has planned out the ages and is working out His will in our lives.

So what does this have to do with innovation? It is very simple. Timing is everything in innovation. Think about an idea that you have which you would like to bring into the world in a new and exciting way. The timing of when, how, why and where are critical.

For example, with some innovations it is very appropriate to launch them in a hard economic time. Think of an innovation that allows people to save money on gas or keeps their home utilities down. Other innovations would never fly. Imagine trying to launch an innovation in luxury pet carriers in a bad economy!

But there are other issues with timing as well. What if your innovation will take you away from your young family for days, weeks or months? What if your other commitments are keeping you from spending the time on your new idea?

As we look at our ideas and how we might move them forward, we need to be very sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His leading. Timing is everything and the right idea can be pushed forward at the wrong time. But if we are praying about our innovations and bringing them before God, He will show us the right timing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Summing Up The Mission Next Conference

It has been almost a week since the Mission Next Conference and I have been processing the key lessons and ideas. Let me share some very quick summaries for you to consider and link you to my thoughts from the conference.
  1. The minute we start questioning motives, we loose our ability to create partnerships between the Global South and the Global North.
  2. Little details speak volumes. If we open our eyes to little things that we say and do and how they impact those from another culture, we will have a solid foundation for partnership.
  3. As long as the standards for ministry practice are developed in the Global North, the Global South will struggle to have their issues and priorities at the table.
  4. If we value status above empowering, then we will never allow new leaders to learn or grow through responsibility.
  5. Partnerships are messy but that allows God to get the glory instead of us.

Out of these and many other conversations came a list of possible ways that we can connect the entire world of Great Commission workers. Take a minute to read some of those ideas.

I hope that blogging this conference has been an encouragement to you. I hope that you have been forced to think about things differently and consider new ways of partnering with other cultures.

Underlying all of this is relationship. If we are not out in our world building relationships, working together and praying together, we cannot hope for unity in the Great Commission Effort.

What are you doing to build healthy and strong cross cultural relationships today?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Little Things That Make a Difference

As I attended the conference, one thing came out over and over - little things make a big difference. Here is what I mean. When you are talking about relationships with people all over the world, little things that seem insignificant can mean a lot, for good or for bad.

One example is the conference call. When you schedule a conference call with a group from around the world, who picks the time? Is the US office getting the most convinient time during business hours?

So many times we are in a hurry to get something done. In our haste we overlook things that show another culture that they are not valued. This happens between any two cultures but as we try to work together it keeps us from building trust.

Those silly little mistakes communicate more than hundreds of hours of meetings and thousands of airline miles logged. So how can we pay attention to the little things?

Moving Forward - Ideas Presented

This conference has been very colaborative. There have been some great efforts to collect ideas, bring together input and create consensus. One of the things I am most impressed about is the effort to create concrete steps for how to build powerful Global North (GN)/ Global South (GS) relationships.

Here are some of the ideas that people have shared (by no means all of them) about building stronger relationships:

NOTE: These were some of the initial brainstorming ideas. There will be more consolidated ideas/action steps coming out of the final discussions. Hopefully the conference will release those in some way to benefit others who could not attend.

1. Create Listening and Learning Opportunities
  • Exchange visits for listening, prayer, learning and family time, not just tasks.
  • Schedule days of listening, repentance and forgiveness for GN /GS failures
  • Select couples with relational skills to dedicate to long term relationship building
  • Share perspectives on N/S topics with internet video in many languages
  • Add peer review process by local voices for GN publications about GS issues

2. Require Cultural Training on the Field with Local Partners
  • Use varied national church contexts for orientation and training of staff and visitors
  • Teach culturally appropriate ways to listen, dialog and partner to new missionaries
  • Invite GS leaders to help design pre-field and on field training for short-term and long-term teams.
  • Invite leaders from GS nations to visit and train organizations in the GN

3. Support Majority World Missions Movements

  • Ask global partners for 1-2 ways to assist them in their own missions mobilization
  • Create business as mission jobs for GS workers in restricted access contents

4. Demonstrate Partnership Vision and Competency at all Levels

  • Set up partnership training for all levels from board to field personnel to partners
  • Establish partnership criteria/expectations for key levels of organizational operation
  • Work on clear, mutually sensitive agreements, policies, MOU’s, and contracts

5. Internationalize Leadership

  • Populate teams and networks with GS/GN people who are reaching the world together.
  • Expect GS/GN people to participate in decision making councils and advisory boards.
  • Place GS individual as co-leader of the organization – regionally or internationally
  • Involve GS people in the recruiting process for their regions by GN organizations

6. Engage Boards in GN/GS Issues

  • Boards should meet internationally
  • Set objective of 50/50 balance for boards between GN/GS
  • Require board members to travel overseas at least once a year to see ministry in context

7. Create Culturally Sensitive Funding Patterns

  • Encourage GS leaders to nominate priority initiatives and projects for funding
  • Clarify benefits and culturally wise methods of funding GS missions movements
  • Redesign funding structures to work flexibly with GS partners in accountable ways.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mentor . . . Mentor . . . Mentor

Tonight we are listening to young Majority World leaders who came in special to speak to us. They are sharing several of the issues that we have heard during the week. But the thing that is coming out loud and clear is that the next generation wants mentors. They want people to come alongside.

These young people even said that having a mentor from a different culture was a positive thing because it gives them new perspectives and ideas.

My heart will choose . . .

As we began worship tonight, we sang the song "Blessed be your Name." It is a powerful song that many churches have been singing for the past few years. But tonight one line stuck out in my mind - "My heart will choose to say Lord Blessed be your name"

The reason this stuck in my mind was that partnership is a choice that our heart must make. Building lasting relationships and loving others is a heart decision. It is a deep commitment to the value of people and the passion to reach those who yet do not know about the hope we have in Christ.

Mission Next Idea 9 - Don't Glamorize

How do we correct the misalignments between the Global North and Global South without glamorizing the side that we are not on. People in the Global South glamorize life in the Global North. People in the Global North glamorize the dynamic ministry in the Global South.

One of our panelists said that we need to remember that we are all human. We all have strengths and weaknesses. The key is finding out who is passionate about what and empowering them in strategic ways.

How have you glamorized the other side of this globe? Think about your own thoughts and ideas.

Mission Next Idea 8 - Motives

One of the things I have seen at this meeting is the tendancy to question motives. I think this is natural. People question motives based on actions that they see. The challenge we have is that actions cannot always be understood because cultures are so different. So we see someone say or do something and in our culture their action would indicate inappropriate motives. However, that person may not actually have bad motives.

So we have to get beyond guessing about motives and really get to know people. As we get to know people then, we will see their hearts and their passions. That doesn't mean that many times people do not have bad motives. But until we know people intimately we will not understand what drives them.

One of our panel members said, "We want what is best for you." If all of us assume we want the best for each other then we can build the relationships that will allow for understanding the dynamics that are going on.

Close connections will allow us to be honest with each other and will allow us to come alongside each other in strategic ways.

Mission Next Idea 7 - Who goes to a conference?

Conferences are the lifeblood of so many things. Those that go to the conference, are included in the strategy, build the relationships and create the networks that make ministry happen. But as conferences go global, how do Majority World leaders who cannot afford the expenses participate.

Many times Western countries provide scholarships to get key people to these conferences. Our panel mentioned that when someone else pays your way, a person feels limited in what they can say. There is a loyalty that is insinuated or expected. This makes accepting scholarships difficult if the Majority World leader desires to represent their ministry's own visions/agendas.

There has to be another solution regarding how to network people in a time with high fuel costs, restricitive governments and cultural challenges. A conference is a model defined by the West based on our expectations and realities.

One thing that Lausanne 2010 is doing is looking at how to distribute the content of the conference digitally. Distribution of the networking opportunity and training content is key.

What are other ways that we can democratize the networking opportunities that are not dependent on global travel?

Mission Next Idea 6 - Paternalism is an Attitude

Our panel is talking about paternalism. The key idea being shared is that "paternalism is larger than money." K. Rajendran shared that paternalism is more about control. It can manifest itself in many aspects of minsitry. The projects selected, who must follow orders, what strategies are selected, how people are hired, etc.

If we look at paternalism as an attitude, then we need to look at all elements of our ministry. Are the decisions that we are making focused on loving people or treating people as objects?

When people become objects then we dehumanize the partnership. When we see people as a dot on a project timeline or a means to an end, then relationships falter. Paternalism is about control of the chess pieces on the board.

When we treat people as fellow laborers, then the issue of control does not become so critical. There is a relationship to create dialogue to solve issues of control.

Dr. Ralph D. Winter Awarded Liftetime of Service Award

Mission leaders are meeting September 24 through 27 for a triennial conference of the Mission Exchange, CrossGlobal Link and EMIS associations. At this special event focused on partnership with the Majority World, leaders took time to recognize Dr. Ralph D. Winter for his years of service to the Global Missions Cause. Dr. Winter received the award on Thursday September 25 during the evening session of the meetings with family, friends and the entire conference attendees participating. Dr. Winter is most known for launching the US Center for World Mission, the William Carey Library and the Perspectives on the Christian World Movement course. Marv Newell, executive director of CrossGlobal Link, and Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Mission Exchange, presented Dr. Winter with the award, describing his service as “pioneering”, “faithful obedience”, and “a world class educator.” Through his various roles as missionary, educator and missions leader, Dr. Winter has championed the cause of unreached peoples and the Global Missions Movement.

Power of Connecting

One of the people moderating discussions in the conference is Phil Butler. He is the CEO of a group called VisionSynergy. It is a great effort to connect global networks of ministries and Christians for global causes.

They are involved in some key initiatives and you can find out more at They also have a facebook group that you can connect with at:

One of the things that we trivialize so many times is the hard work of connecting. It is uncomfortable, costly, perplexing and humbling. But out of these realities comes a powerful result that only God can take the credit for.

Majestic and Messy

Devotional thought for Friday
Marv Newell - President of CrossGlobal Link

Ecclesiastes 4
Four Advantages of Working in Unity
1. Better success - the advantage of a better yeild
2. Better stability - the advantage of helpful assistance
3. Better chance of survival - the advantage of companionship
4. Better security - the advantage of additional strength

How do we apply the concept of 2 being better than one in missions? What does it mean for our organization. Marv made a point that partnerships are better, but not easier. Essentially relationships honor God but are very messy. Are we willing to do the hard work of partnership even when it is much easier to do our own thing?

So are you ready to dive in?

Thoughts from Majority World Leaders

Majority World Perspectives from Thursday

“Give time for new initiatives to succeed. Give us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”

~ K. Rajendran

“In spite of everything there is tomorrow.”

~ Timothy Olanade

“Just because we don’t write as much doesn’t mean we don’t have any ideas.”

~Bob Lopez

Bob Lopez gave us a test question: Are you willing to let Asians lead major projects or global networks and support them?

Bob Lopez wants to know, “Are you having fun yet?”

- Gathered my Mission Exchange Staff

Reflections on Global Partnerships

Thursday night at the Mission Next Conference, we had a panel of Majority World leaders answering questions. The questions had been collected throughout the day and they ranged from "What pictures to take on the field" to "What a good partnership looks like."

All that was good, but one thing struck me more than anything else. One question was, "What does your country bring to a partnership?" Of course, as we talk about parity and mutual benefit, that is a very critical question. If Western countries are bringing funding and resources, what are other countries bringing that they view as equal to the resources.

Some of the answers were:
- Experience of the church
- Passion
- New Questions / Answers about the Bible
- Fun
- We love Jesus, we love others and we want to get the job done
- Able to live with little
- Godly insight and wisdom
- Sheer desire to survive

What caught my attention about these answers is that these are not things you can put in a suitcase. They aren't things you can physically hand to someone. And they are definitely not things that you can grasp easily via phone and email.

Bottom line, as I have been listening to the issues, the greatest challenge seems to be "face time" with global partners. The value that Majority World people bring is something that has to be experienced in person. We can't have a conference call and say it's done. It is deeply personal and any effort to depersonalize it and comoditize it will fail.

Are Western organizations and individuals willing to make the commitment to this type of personal and long-term investment in partners? I think many were asking that question on Thursday night.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Statistics on Global Christianity

See the difference between where Christians lived in 1910 and where they will live in 2010. The darkest areas show where most Christians live. These slides come from Todd Johnson's study.

Mission Next Idea 5 - Reacting and Reframing

One of the things I have noticed in this conference is related to a trait that is very American. North American people live at the edges of the pendulum. North Americans are known for their dramatic swings in reaction to the realities of the day. Just look at our financial markets this week and you will see an example of living on the edges of the pendulum.

I am getting a very strong sense at this conference that North Americans now see how they have pushed their own agenda and ignored the voices of the Majority World. In the process of coming to this realization, they now put down their own value and ideas as they swing over to the other edge. Now the Majority World can do no wrong.

This is just as harmful as the other edge of the pendulum. Both are valuable. There is a huge need for the Majority World to be leading in the Great Commission Cause, but that does not nullify the value and importance of Western participation. We need to see the influence of the Majority World rise without putting down the value of what the Western World has added to the discussion.

Can we have a paradigm where both are valued and leveraged for God's glory?

Mission Next Idea 4 - Is Status Limiting Your Strategy?

This morning Steve Moore lead devotions and talked about the challenges to Servant Leadership. One of the key points he made had to do with status. He said so many times status keeps us from being servant leaders.

He said that we get status in the following ways:
- Status by Position
- Status by Association
- Status by Information
- Status by Exageration
- Status by Education

These status issues keep us from serving others. They keep us from passing influence and opportunties to others. These issues keep us focused on ourselves.

Do you get your identity from your status? Are you willing to give up status for the larger Great Commission Cause?

Mission Next Idea 3 - Expanding Networks

So much of missions work is done in networks. Those networks - Lausanne, WEA, etc - drive ideas, strategies, partnerships. Those networks have been established over time and in the models driven by Western mission agendas.

So how do these venerable networks bring in the new movements within the Great Commission? As people from the Majority World join these networks, how do they plug in? How do the Western leaders of these networks continue to share their valuable history and experience while not dampening new ideas that are coming out of very different contexts and cultures?

A key element of this is trust. Will Western Leaders trust new partner's ideas in the Majority World and lend their name/credibility to these new ideas. I think that if established leaders will point to new ideas and stand behind them, new ideas will be given life.

One of the keys in a transition of leadership between old and young / West and Majority World is that the established leaders will value the new even if it lessens their status. Would you be willing to sacrifice your status and importance to bless a new voice?

Mission Next Idea 2 - Standards Drive Action

What happens when a standard is developed? After that people work to implement it. So in reality the place where a standard is developed is the place of influence. Are we developing standards for missions that really allow all the voices of the Great Commission Effort to interact?

Because the standards are still being developed in the Global North, the challenge comes in the implementation in the Global South. The Majority World is where the standards are applied but they are not developed there.

This is where we are today, but the bigger challenge is that many of these standards have already been developed. How do we move forward? Do we tear down the old standards to have another discussion? Do we isolate certain standards as untouchable and then open new areas up for new dialogue?

This is a key issue of buyin. Standards related to evangelism, theological education, church planting, and sustainability need buyin from all players.

So what does that process of buyin look like for you in your ministry?

Mission Next Idea 1 - The Place of Money

"Money is less important in partnership for us than it is for you. We want respectful cooperation more than resources." David Ruiz

Money is always a challenge in culture isn't it? But do we all look at money the same way. David is saying that money doesn't necessarily hold the same value in every culture. There may be other values and things that you can bring to the table in a partnership with people in the Majority World.

What might a partnership that wasn't focused on money look like?

What does David mean by "respectful cooperation"?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Engaging the Majority World

"The purpose of the 2008 North American Mission Leaders Conference is to challenge assumptions, broaden perspectives, and stimulate actionable dialogue among Great Commission leaders regarding how we relate to the Majority World harvest force." - Steve Moore, president of the Mission Exchange

As the Mission Next conference begins, one of the first things to think about and get your head around is the concept of the Majority World. This is not a new term, but there are so many terms out there that people are using, that it can get confusing.

Wikipedia defines it this way: "The majority world (sometimes capitalized as Majority World) is a term used in preference to the largely inaccurate, out-of-date and/or non-descriptive terms developing countries, third world and the "Global South". In the early nineties, Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam [1]began advocating for the new expression “majority world” to represent what has been known as the “Third World.” The term highlights the fact that these countries are indeed the majority of humankind. It also highlights the anomaly that the G8 (whose decisions affect the majority of the world's peoples) represent a tiny fraction of people in the world."

So what does this mean in missions work? Well, the reality today is that a vast majority of the Great Commission work is being done by people who live in this Majority World. Many reading this blog are from a Majority World country and many others are living in one of these countries.

The reality is that the missions movement of the 20th Century was defined and carried out by the Western developed nations. In the 21st Century the missions movement will be defined and driven by the Majority World.

So what is the role of Western leaders meeting in Denver then? God has a bigger plan than any of us can imagine. While the Majority World is the largest player in this new century, the role of the Western missions movement is still critical.

The key is sincere and humble partnership between the two. Both are God's agents to share the Gospel. This is not a "Door Number 1" or "Door Number 2" discussion. God is going to use all that come in humility and obedience. He will use them all in unique and powerful ways.

So as this discussion begins, lets see what God might do . . .

Blogging at Mission Next

What is Next in Missions?

This week, The Mission Exchange, Cross Global Link and EMS are meeting for in Denver under the theme Mission Next. At this meeting in Denver, people will be talking about what is next in missions - what it looks like to do missions with technology, the rise of new missions movements and new levels of strategic partnerships.

This is a key time for this discussion. The global economy, the changes in the church, and the rise of persecution along with a number of great issues are impacting missions significantly.

I will be blogging from the conference. Will anyone who reads this blog be there? Any questions issues that you would like to hear about? Lets have a discussion around this event and the outcomes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Introducing Generous Minds

I recently asked our Innovation in Mission facebook group to let me know if they had published any books that I could share with our larger audience. I got a great response. Here are some of the books from other innovators out there. Take some time to consider them:

If you have a book that you have written, please make a comment to this post and share it so that others can connect with your creative ideas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who Stole My . . . ?

One of the biggest challenges for innovators is the fact that any new idea is seen as taking something away from the old. TV stole away radio listeners and the airplane stole away train passengers.

So what do you do when people feel like your idea is stealing soemthing they love? Well, read Gordon MacDonald's book "Who Stole My Church" to get an idea. This is a fictional book where Pastor MacDonald is a pastor in a New England church going through great change. In the midst of this he gather a group of long-time church goers to meet every week to discuss the changes.

As you read you will see the human side of change. The "Us and Them" will go away and it will inspire you to engage those who are feeling a sense of loss.

You can't lead change if no one is following. And just ignoring those who are struggling is not the answer. This is a tough thing to deal with as you can't wait forever either.

So take a few days to digest this book and be encouraged in your innovation.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Creating Win Win Innovations

One of the key elements to an innovation is the ability to help seemingly opposite interest groups to find benefit from your idea. This is not easy to do and that is why it is so valuable.

The reason that this is so difficult is that when you please one group, you identify with their values and solve things that they are concerned about. Another group will naturally have different values and concerns. Like a lunar or solar eclipse, the times when these two celestial bodies cross paths are few and far between.

So how do you go about creating a win win innovation? Here are some ideas to consider.
- Identify the need that your innovation will meet.
- Pray that God will give you a tender heart to help the people who have this need.
- Ask God to show you which groups have this need.
- Once you have 2-3 groups identified then ask yourself what they have in common.
- Ask yourself what are their desires and motivators.
- Isolate those things that they have in common and that drive them.
- Look for a solution that tracks with those commonalities.
- You may just have found a win win innovation.

A Win Win in Action
I would like to introduce you to a win win innovation within our facebook group. Justin Marquardt has started something called Versemail. He combined his passion for missions and technology into a service that meets the needs of American Christians and also the missions community.

Here how Justin describes the birth of this idea, "I have always had a passion for Technology and my wife has always had a passion for missions. There came a point where I felt God’s calling to get more involved with missions to equal that of my wife. We pooled our abilities, prayed for an Idea and then together came up with a service that provides funds for missions opportunities, uses technology, and helps others with their daily walk with Christ. We saw many sites out there dedicated to a daily bible verse so we wanted to add some cool technology and a personal feel to a daily Bible verse idea. We added voice messaging and practical life application to go along with the verse. We believe there is something powerful about the spoken Word of God. Our vision and prayer is that the Lord uses Versemail to uplift the lives of our daily subscribers at the same time raising money allowing the gospel and good news of Christ to be shared with others all over the World."

What I love about this idea is that in praying for an innovation, God put both the donor and the missions cause on their heart. They identified a cool new service that would encourage and a way to benefit missions. The idea of Versemail is unique as well because it is delivered as a voicemail. If you think about it, when you receive a voicemail on your phone it is usually an action item. Voicemail is an actionable product. So delivering devotional thoughts this way allows you to engage in an idea and act on it.

Justin is using the proceeds of this new innovation to support missions, "We support a number of different organizations and also take missions trips ourselves. Bridges of Hope International, Campus Crusade, World Vision are a few ministries that we will be supporting initially."

Read a story of impact from this innovation, "Our last subscriber signed up a friend who is struggling and in need of prayer. She felt Versemail was a great way to reach that individual. Others have been encouraged on a daily basis by the action plans Versemail delivers."

Do you see any practical ways to apply Justin's innovation? If so contact him at the site or in our facebook group.

So as you look at your innovative idea, can you see any win win situations? It will strengthen your idea and create more adoption.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Taking Strategic Risks for God's Kingdom

How tolerant of risk are you? Everyone has a different tolerance and this is key to your success in innovation. Innovators learn to tolerate risk if they believe the reward is great enough. Think about some of the great missions innovators and how risky their lives seem today.

The thing that helps us take risk is the great reward that we strive for. We are working for something much larger than money or fame. Our innovations are designed to have eternal impact for God's Kingdom. Within that context, God challenges us to take greater risk and to trust in Him.

I would like to introduce you to an innovator and risk taker in our facebook group - Dawn Herzog Jewell. Dawn works for MAI and has just written a book called Escaping the Devil's Bedroom. This book is a daring look at the realities of the sex trade world wide and what Christians are doing to reach out to people caught in this reality.

Dawn doesn't have any experience in this area, but she felt that God wanted her to write about something that wasn't getting much ink - and through prayer - God led her to this topic. As a new author, imagine the intimidation of tackling a topic like this? Would you have done it?

But Dawn found a prayer partner to walk alongside her and she began tackling the subject. After much travel, research and interaction with those who work in this area of ministry - the book is finally out.

As I read the first chapter, what I found so amazing is that Dawn helped me to see those people caught in the sex trade as individuals in desperate need of love. It was so easy before for me to see them as objects, but Dawn introduces me to people who were broken and have now been made whole in Christ.
One of the innovative elements is how Dawn carries the theme of lost and found people throughout the book. So many books focus on the sin and forget the person. Dawn turned that equation around and made it about those people who are caught in the middle of their sin and their circumstances. Even when the people in the book are hard to love, Dawn challenges the reader to see them as Jesus does.

Dawn has tackled a subject that few would cover. She has dealt with the topic in a straightforward way that shows the sin but then focuses on the solution. In all that she had friends and co-workers praying for her and her work.

I believe that Dawn's risk is going to pay off in exciting ways as people around the world get to know what ministry is going on to free people from the sex trade and how they can get involved.

What risks is God asking you to take today? Will you be courageous enough to engage in God's agenda?

Make sure to visit the blog:

Also, make sure to join the facebook group for the book:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Innovation in those Anonymous Times

When the word innovation pops into our minds, one of the ideas that usually surfaces is that of "fame." You know what I mean. Those who innovate get articles written about them, they get buildings named after them and a parade of biographers write their story.

But did you know that this is really a very rare occurance for the innovator? The normal reality is one of anonymity. When God births an idea in your head and begins to work in your heart to develop it, usually it is not done in front of an audience. It is done in a quiet place - an out of the way place.

In fact the good ideas usually take a long time to "cook" as our friend Dr. Hiebert used to say. That cooking is tedious, frustrating and lonely. But there are no shortcuts to it. There are no other avenues to pursue. To innovate you must accept the times of anonymity.

A resource to help you in this process is this week's Innovation Book of the Week - Anonymous.

Check out my review and I hope it is a help and a blessing.

If you have any thoughts on what you have done in those anonymous times, take a minute to share them for all of our readers. That would be a great encouragement.

Innovation Book of the Week - August 18-22

Being Anonymous
So many times when you are an innovator you go through those times of your life when you are invisible. You are working hard at your idea but no obvious grand ceremony is in sight. What do you do?
"Anonymous" is written by Alicia Chole and it is about the hidden years of Jesus and what we as Christians can learn from those years. This idea was deeply impacting to me because I have had those times. Times where I ask, "Where is God?" "Is my cause worth it?" "Is God closing a door or opening one?"
Those are normal questions. Don't be afraid of the anonymous times. What this book will teach you is how to use those times so that when you burst out into the spotlight you are ready. You are deep in your faith, full of wisdom that can only come from suffering and ready to serve humbly.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Innovations in Visual Understanding

For much of the past century, our missions efforts have been centered around the concept that literacy is key to a culture's ability to embrace the Gospel. This has been a reality for our Wycliffe friends who teach literacy as they translate so that the people can read the Bible in their own language. This great movement had incredible results. In many ways the global economy that we now enjoy is partially due to the efforts of missionaries.

So we have this wonderful heritage of literacy with missions work. But many in recent years have been asking a question, "Is literacy required to gain an understanding of spiritual things?" This was an innovative question to ask for sure. The result of asking that question was the Orality Movement. The basic idea is that if we have the right techniques and tools, we can communicate to pre-literate and illiterate peoples in a way that will help them understand the Gospel and grow in their faith.

Now that is the concept of Orality, but I would like to present a further innovation in visual communication. A member of our facebook group - Clyde Taber (a former staff member with the Jesus Film Project) - is helping to coordinate a new group called the Visual Story Network. This idea takes the basic concept of tools for oral learners and then looks at a specific subset of those tools - visual ones.

This is a critical area of work because pre-literate, illiterate and post-literate people all respond to visual stories. But in the missions movement, we have been slow to identify and use visual tools because we have been so text heavy. Don't read that as a criticism, it is just a reality of how missions tools developed.

So the big innovation question is this, "How can visual stories transform how we communicate the Gospel?" Whether you are trying to reach people who have never read one word or those who have given up reading in a highly visual generation, this is an important question.

If you are interested in exploring this network of innovators, check out their site. Even better, go to the Visual Story Network Forum that is being held alongside the International Orality Network Conference in Dallas September 16-18.

The goals of the event are to:

1. Gather and engage visual story “innovators and early adaptors” around the vision of a global movement
2. Develop strategy groups focused on Training and Equipping, North America and Global Opportunities. Each strategy group will focus on two achievable objectives (6-9 month time frame).
3. Provide training in the development and use of visual story for kingdom impact
4. Develop relationships with the leaders in the International Orality Network. While their focus is on the use of oral story formats, we believe there are lessons to be shared between the two communities.
5. Provide networking opportunities
6. Present current models of effective visual story

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book of the Week - August 4-8


This quick read is an excellent resource for innovators. John Naisbitt very quickly goes through 11 mindsets that we need to consider if we are to see the world differently. These have been very helpful to me as I have strived to tackle big problems.

But he goes beyond describing these 11 mindsets. In the second part of the book he really focuses in on case studies from the real world and how these mindsets play out.

If you haven't read it yet, pick it up. A quick scan will be very beneficial

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Innovation Rejection

What happens when your innovation is rejected? If you are an active innovator, then this has happened many times. Rejection in the innovation business is like bike accidents for an avid biker. You know you when you sign up that you will end up with bumps and bruises.

There are two key components to handling Innovation Rejection:

1. Your Attitude: As an innovator, you need to hold your ideas and excitement lightly. You never know what will catch on, what will work, what will make sense. If you personally invest so heavily in an idea that you can't discard it when it doesn't work, you will not see your innovations succeed.

2. Your Identity: As an innovator, your identity needs to be in Christ and not in your ideas. If you get your value and worth from your ability to come up with new ideas, you will find yourself defensive, frustrated and hopeless. If you get your identity from your ability to innovate, then your very worth as a person will come from your success. So when you fail you will feel worthless.

The innovator that can hold ideas lightly and anchor their identity in Christ will find a creative freedom that is hard to contain. God is ready to let you loose on the world. Failure will be a part of that reality, but in God's strength you will learn from each rejection and go on.

An successfull innovator is not someone who doesn't fail, they are someone who reaches beyond their failures to learn key leasons that will lead to the next great endeavor.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Made it to 300!

Friends, we reached our goal of growing the Facebook Innovation in Mission group to 300. Thanks for all of you who joined. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Help us get to 300!

If you are checking out this blog and are also using facebook, take a minute to join our Innovation in Mission group. We are almost to 300 members and you can help us get there.

Click here: or search Innovation in Mission next time you hop on!

See you there.

10 Minutes a Day with Jesus - July 28 - Aug 1

An Authentic Connection
This week we have been talking about authenticity. Can you think of anyone more authentic than Jesus? He brought eternity into our lives in a way that we are still striving to understand.
As you think about how you can be authentic in your innovation work, who better to model than Jesus. The co-editor with me of Innovation in Mission - Jim Reapsome - has a new book out called 10 Minutes a Day with Jesus and it is worth a read.
Jim does an incredible job of giving us bite-sized opportunities to learn more about Jesus and what He has done for us. These short devotionals inspire a day's worth of thought and have been such an encouragement to me when I feel that I don't have any more to give.
So many times Jesus seems like a distant idea, a foreign person so far from our reality. As I read this, I am getting to know Jesus in new ways and realizing how Jesus wants to revolutionize my life with his authentic touch.
I hope you will find this book to be an encouragement as you seek to innovate in your ministry. Jesus is our most powerful example in innovation work and we must seek after Him constantly if we want to be used to unleash authentic innovations for God's glory.

Authentic Innovation

I have been thinking about authenticity recently. It started when I asked God why he doesn't move more powerfully in us at times. As I thought about this, I realized that many times when God moves I immediately focus in on this new exciting thing that is happening and take it over. I am convinced that I can run it better than God!

You know what I mean. How many times does God do something special just to have us come in and build this movement a building, a program, an 8 week curriculum, etc. We don't know what else to do with the God of the Universe on the move. To let Him do His thing would be to loose control of our lives completely - and that is the idea isn't it?

I think there is a powerful application to innovation. God is the ultimate innovator. He is doing incredible new things that are transforming lives and blessing communities. His ways are inherently innovative - we understand only a small piece of who God is and how He thinks. Imagine the endless stream of new ideas that God is capable of revealing in our world.

With this in mind, innovation in mission is about seeking God. If God is the source of our ideas, then those concepts will have an authenticity that we could not develop on our own. Let me give you an example. In the Old Testament, God innovated to create a place for His people Israel. He brought them out of captivity and gave them a land. In that land there was no king - simply a judge that represented God's holy rule. What an innovative model for government! To think that the God of the universe would guide and lead an earthly people.

As this played out, God showed himself faithful and protected Israel. After one such event, the people decided that they needed control. They wanted a king. Samuel tried to convince them that the authentic rule of God was more beneficial than a human king, but they had made up their minds.

How many times do we take a holy idea - authentic to its core - and destroy it as we seek to gain control and power? How many innovations has this destroyed? Who knows, but we do know that God is an endless fount of blessing and He is willing to bless us with many more ideas. IF we will not seek to control and own them.

So what does authentic innovation look like? It is God moving through us to bring about a new idea that will bless many. We participate and God guides it to fruition. Pray that God will move in that way in your ministry today!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Most Relevant Missions Topic

I have been doing a poll on this site for the past months about the most relevant topic in missions. Here are the results:

The Most Relevant Topic in Missions today is . . .
- Church Planting (13%)
- Business as Mission (20%)
- Strategic Partnerships (6%)
- Equipping Local Believers (60%)

What does this say about where we need innovation? Well, one thing it says is that we need to be innovating in how organizations empower and equip effectively. How are you innovating in this area?

More to come . . .

Book of the Week - July 14-18

10 Rules for Strategic Innovators

This book is a solid help - specifically if you are trying to innovate within a legacy organization. I blogged about this book a bit last week, but it is worth mentioning again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Insurgency and the Establishment

To be involved in innovation takes a willingness to do things differently. It takes a fighting heart that can push through on change even when it is hard. It takes a sensitivity to people that allows you to empower them in the creative process.

To do these types of things, you have to be an insurgent. You have to be willing to forget the old ways of doing something and at the same time borrow all the good of the old.

Your main struggle as an innovator will be against the establishment. The establishment is the system that works wonderfully today but is not thinking about how the world must change.

So here is the question, how can you have an insurgent's heart within an establishment world? They are not mutually exculsive. In fact, some of the greatest innovations came out of the center of the old, established organizations/industries/cultures.

One of the great examples is Corning. This company has reinvented itself dozens of times creating new markets and new products that have revolutionized our world. From light bulbs to Corningware, to fiber optics and now LCD screens. They are an example of an established company who has an insurgent culture capable of amazing innovation. To see a timeline of their innovation click here.

One of the key ideas that I would like to highlight in this process is one that is shared in a book called Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From idea to execution. It is key for insurgents within established organizations. The authors call it "NewCo" and "CoreCo." The idea is simple. Your core company - CoreCo - can create new initiatives - NewCo - if it is strategic. There are two key lessons to learn if you are trying to start something new within an established organization.

Borrow - They say that we must borrow key infrastructure that will help us succeed. For instance if your ministry has a warehouse, your new initiative should use it to store key products/materials instead of outsoucing and spending more money.

Forget - They say that we must forget the old ways things have been done. So if your ministry has a traditional way of doing a certain thing, you must forget it and reimagine it for your new needs.

If your desire is to begin a NewCo within a CoreCo, the other key thing for you to consider is how you structure your initiative. If it is too connected to the old, it won't make it. A CoreCo manager will never make the necessary sacrifices for a NewCo initiative. If it is too disconnected you won't have the advantages of all that infrastructure. The key is high level leaders who support the NewCo but empower it to grow and develop the way it needs to.

So here is the question, what can you do to create the right environment to lead an insurgency within your established organization?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Innovation Book of the Week - July 7-11

As you consider how to take an idea you have and really connect it with others, a must read is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

This book helps you identify what a message or idea needs to have to be memorable and actionable.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Anchor and Twist

So many times when we come up with a new idea, we then go about trying to sell it to the world. We make powerpoints, design logos, create descriptions, write case studies and on and on.

Two of my favorite innovation writers (Dan and Chip Heath - who wrote Made to Stick) have a new concept that I think can really help missions innovators. The call it Anchor and Twist.

The concept is very easy. Instead of trying to explain your new idea from scratch, you start with something people know, relate it to your idea and then add the twist. This allows people to quickly relate your idea to something that they have seen before, but creates the distinctive quickly. This is tricky, but can be very powerful.

Lets take a very easy example. We recently purchased a small high definition flat panel television. For some the difference between analog and digital is still a bit unclear. But try this, "The picture looks like what you see on your flat panel computer monitor at work only it has an antenna hookup in the back." Almost everyone now has flat computer monitors, so they know what those are. But none of theirs have a place for an antenna to hook up. So you anchored your idea in something they knew and twisted it to describe the new item.

Lets us a missions example. As many of you might know, a staple in communicating missions in North America has been the "dinner event." They are banquets where people come to hear about what God is doing around the world. These tools were and still can be very effective for awareness and communication. One of the centerpieces for a missions banquet is always the "compelling video." Lets say I am trying to introduce our YouTube videos and explain how they might be used to communicate to people interested in missions. I could either go into a long explanation of online video, the demographics, the stats etc, or I could say, "Putting our missions videos on online videos on sites like YouTube are like a virtual missions banquet with a 24/7 program." I have anchored the YouTube video in a familiar concept for many people involved in missions but twisted it with they reality that they are available all the time.

What innovative concept are you working to present today? How could you apply this concept of "Anchor and Twist" to help people understand and grapple with it more effectively. Remember that the amount of work you do up front to define and explain will go a long way towards adoption as you work with you idea.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fix and Flex Part 2

I received a great response from our first installment on the "Fix and Flex" concept. On of our facebook group members asked the following question and I wanted to take a minute and process it with you.

"Jon -- Cool. Sounds like being goal oriented. For me, that is a strong motivator...but what about other creative types that are not particularly goal oriented...who prefer to feel the flow. Any tips? Any tips for those to whom they would be accountable?"

Here are some thoughts:

When we talk about fixing one thing and flexing another, we usually thing dates/times/etc. Those are very linear things that we wish we could fix on both ends. The innovation of fix and flex is that we pick the most important one to success and then the other side of the equation stays loose and able to change.

But lets think about this in a different way for creatives who aren't at all driven by linear goals. You can also do this with very conceptual things. For instance, let's say that you are a graphic designer and you are tasked with creating a series of postcards to promote an upcoming event. The normal process is to receive the scope for the project from whoever is requesting it and then begin to work based on that scope. But what if the designer looked at the scope and asked the question, "Which element of the scope is most central?" Out of this exercise they might pick one or two things to fix. Then they could process, what areas are open for new ideas or new approaches - those are the areas to flex.

Now comes along the manager of this graphic designer. If you are using the same vocabulary, the manager who is holding this graphic designer accountable can engage them and ask what things must be fixed and what areas can the designer really try some new and different approaches.

In this environment, a designer can create an innovative environment while still being accountable for the scope.

What do you think of this next application?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fix and Flex Part 1

How do you create order and process if you are a creative/innovative person? This is one of those age old questions. We look at those creatives in our lives and many times they are tipified by the all-nighters, messy desks and ignored calendars. That is a stereotype of creative minds.

Mindy and I recently read an article that Dayna Garland, Creative Director at HCJB Global, gave us. It was entitled "How to Become an Early Riser" by Steve Pavlina. In this article he focuses on his journey to being an early riser. He did it because he saw that some of the most productive hours in the day were the early ones. I would highly recommend the read, but for this posting, I am only taking one of his core ideas and throwing it out there for a wider application.

His basic solution was what I am calling "Fix and Flex." In the article, he said that the way he was able to change his habits and become an early riser was to fix the morning time he would get up but flex the evening time based on how tired he was. Fix and Flex - sounds simple.

The beauty of this simple little concept is that it is the saving grace for all you creatives out there. Usually the answer to more discipline is a high amount of rigid restrictions. We see this in New Years Resolutions. In those high restrictions, compliance becomes very difficult. Usually, we fail and then give up.

The difference with fix and flex is that you fix one thing but you allow the more relaxed process of creativity to dictate the other. Let me give you another example. Lets say that my goal was to write in this blog three times a week. With this concept, I would fix the number of times I wanted to write but not when. That means that one week all three posts might come in the same night and the next week they would come on Monday Wednesday and Friday.

Are you seeing the applications? In the end, it is very simple. When we require that everything be fixed as a matter of discipline we are set up for failure because of circumstances, creative flow, etc. But when we allow for flexibility along with fixed goals, we create an environment where we can be much more innovative.

More to come in this in the next few days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Loving Touch

A quote from Carolyn Arends' recent article in Christianity Today really got my attention the other day:

"Is there any story about God that isn't a love story?" - Carolyn Arends

She is right. No matter how aweful the situation or how strange the outcome, everything that God is about is covered in love. When He corrects - He loves. When he blesses - He loves.

So think about your work to innovate. How are we covering our actions in love. Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in accomplishing a goal or creating something new. We get focused in and we act in very unloving ways. Then we wonder why God is not blessing our seemingly "holy cause."

This isn't something that just happens to those wayward people. It happens to all of us. We get so focused on our goal that we stop loving. How does this look practically?
- We reject a vacation request of a project member because our deadline is more important than their unique opportunity.
- We cut people off in a meeting when they are processing the project goals.
- We manipulate people to perform faster.
- We pit one person against another to motivate them.
- We yell at vendors who did not deliver.
- We short-change our family for the project.
- and the list goes on and on.

Our motivation in our innovation is the key. Are we doing our missional innovation out of a love for God and for those that our innovation will serve?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being Dangerous

Charles Bukowski said, "To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art."

Why are we so risk adverse? Why are we so afraid to fail? Maybe some of those same reasons cause us to do little that draws attention or stands out as compelling.

Are you willing to do a dangerous thing?

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Rest from Blogging

Everyone needs a rest - so I have taken a week or two rest from blogging. But this week I am back and we will be talking about "Fixed and Flexed". Stay tuned for more on how this concept can help you create an environment for innovation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Engaging People through Art

Recently, I featured an article by Paul Nethercott about Missional Art. We recieved a great response of click-throughs and some good comments. I also recieved this excellent example of missional art. Kathy Trim (another TEAM missionary in Japan) shares how she is using art to engage the Japanese culture. Take a few minutes to read this and think about how art can be a part of your missional outreach:

Scrapbooking. The word alone raises many eyebrows as a large number of people believe it is just an expensive hobby. And in the United States, I do believe that, for some people, that is probably an accurate definition. However, I prefer to think of it as a form of art, particularly one that passes on a heritage to the next generation.

How can the art of scrapbooking be missional art? Japanese tourists are often stereotyped as people who travel in groups with cameras around their necks. In actuality, it isn't just the tourists from Japan who are taking photographs. Photography is very popular with nearly all Japanese people. What are they taking photos of? Just like you and me, they take pictures of the people, events, and scenery that are important to them. Building relationships with Japanese people takes lots of time. It is hard to get past the surface topics and become trusted enough that they will open up and share what is really in their hearts. However, through the sharing of photographs, relationships can be effectively deepened.

This is where scrapbooking comes "into the picture". (pun intended)

Scrapbooking can be an individual activity in the privacy of your home. But, the real fun of scrapbooking comes when people gather together in groups and share ideas and tools, and work together on their individual projects. I've begun hosting scrapbooking events in our church hall which is so suited to this with lots of tables and chairs. There is no preaching or evangelistic message. There is just a leader who cares; a leader who will walk around and ask the guests to tell them about the photos; a leader who will give words of encouragement and hope; a leader who will offer ideas to help the guests create photo albums that will be filled with cherished memories for themselves and their families. I am not very artistic...Yet, with the tools and supplies available for scrapbooking, I am now able to express my creativity in an art form that will hopefully bless others as they see my albums and hear my faith-stories that are journaled in the albums. The Japanese women that are now attending these events are excited about what they are doing. They enjoy showing their photographs to other people and talking about them. These women are bonding with each other, as together they create their own art.

Missions begins with relationships. As we build relationships and develop trust, opportunities to share our faith will open up. The innovation comes at the beginning. How do we meet new people? How do we develop relationships with them? How do we help them recognize a need in their lives that up until now, they may not have realized they have? Very few people will intentionally seek us out. It is for us to go and seek those whom are lost. We certainly aren't
going to stumble over them sitting on the church steps waiting for us to open the doors.
Scrapbooking is a type of art that even people who are not "artistic" can do. It opens up the doors to interact with people on a deeper level. It is also meeting a felt need in their lives (shoeboxes overflowing with pictures that need to be organized and preserved for the future).

To me, scrapbooking is missional art.

K.J. Trim
church planting with TEAM in Kobe, Japan

Monday, May 19, 2008

Linking Christ-centered Innovation to Prayer

There is a direct and essential link between Christ-centered innovation and the discipline of prayer. Our success in innovation demands that we be connected to God and communing with Him. We need His heart to know what problems or challenges to address.

I used the phrase "Christ-centered innovation" on purpose because much innovation that exists in our world is focused on ourselves and our needs. That does not mean it is bad. But it does mean that it was done with the basic human gifts and talents that God has given to all of humanity.

But there are innovations that are Christ-centered or Christ-focused. These are innovations that come out of prayer and knowing the mind of God. These innovations are big in God's economy, but they may or may not register in the eyes of modern man.

Of course, the challenge with understanding which innovations come out of this posture is that it is all about motivations. And that gets me to my point. Those Christ-centered innovations are only birthed out of prayer. If we are to reach beyond ourselves and create innovations that will impact people for Christ, they will come as we pray for breakthroughs.

This is easy to say and very hard to do. Innovation is a practical and energizing event. Prayer on the other hand, can seem very impractical and without energy. Of course, we know it is not, but it is hard to get beyond that perception. So many times we think of prayer as the thing you do to kick off the effort. It is like smashing the bottle of wine against the hull of the ship before it sets sail.

But prayer is most of the work. To continue using our last analogy. Prayer is the building of the ship and the actual innovation work is only the sailing of it.

So how many hours should we put into prayer if we truely desire our innovations to be Christ-centered? I don't think there is a formula, but I can probably guarantee that we should spend more than we are spending today!