Monday, March 24, 2008

Clutterless Innovation

We live in a world where one more of anything is too much!!

We are overloaded, overcommitted, saturated, innundated . . .

So what is an innovator to do in a world that is crying for people to stop creating new things that they will have to pay attention to?

Here are some thoughts on how to innovate in a full world:

1. Even though people's lives are full, they want solutions to very specific challenges that they feel are a need. If you can identify a true need out there and speak to those people about your solution it will not be seen as more clutter.

2. Gone are the days when one tool works for all. Instead of broadcasting your innovation out generically, you will see better results by finding a smaller niche market.

3. Tie your innovation to something people are already using. If your innovation helps make another established resource more valueable, people will be more willing to add it into their lives.

4. Tell personal stories of impact with your invention. People don't want marketing hype. They want to see that a new idea/product/vision can help them with their daily challenges.

Finally, don't assume that anyone cares. Don't take anyone who you excite for granted. Each person who adopts your innovation is a huge milestone and it takes this one-by-one approach to really grow a new idea.

Monday, March 17, 2008

21 in 21 - A New Generation on Mission

There was an exciting Symposium that happened recently at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. It looked at the 21st Century of missions and what a new generation would bring to it.

One of our facebook group members is a leader at the seminary - David Livermore. See what he said about it and take a minute to check out the presentations:

"At Jon's invitation, I just wanted to mention a symposium we recently convened at the Global Learning Center here in Grand Rapids. With Bill Taylor as our keynote presenter and some 20-somethings of course, we wrestled with the issue of what it looks like to learn from 20-somethings in how they view mission. A great deal of fascinating dialogue ensued. We'll be posting more results from the symposium in the future but for now, you can see some of the presentations at"

Some of the presentations include:
- Learning to Listen to 20-Somethings
- Confessions of a Boomer
- Common Ground

This topic is of utmost importance because it is so hard to think outside of our context. We struggle to engage with younger or older generations so many times. However, if you are already in missions, this is the time to understand how a new generation will do missions differently.

If you are one of those 20-somethings (or maybe even younger) who is working through what missions is - be encouraged. Your journey is exactly what missions needs. As you think through the issues, pray about how you will approach it, and innovate with the challenges and opportunities of the day, God is going to use you in incredible ways!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Innovation means digging deep

So many times when we set out to innovate in our ministries we realize that the problems we are seeking to solve have many layers. Just as we dig into the first issue, we begin to understand the many other issues that have lead to this problem.

The tendancy is to stop digging and focus on the solution to the top layer of challenges. We say, "This is a big enough chunck to deal with for now!" There is a problem with this however. So many times the top layer cannot be solved until the underlying layers are dealt with. This is no fun to hear but it is true.

As I have dealt with this issue in the past, I have had no other choice than to keep digging. It is painful and challenging, but as you dig deeper into your particular challenge you begin to understand what real innovation in that area must look like.

You see, when you were working on the top layer, your innovation work might end up only compounding the problem. But if you really understand the depth of the challenge then your innovation work will be informed by all of the layers.

Hopefully this will lead to richer and more comprehensive solutions to the significant problems that face missions. It isn't fun work, but it is the work that we must do if we are to uncover the new ideas that will help us serve Christ in a changing world.

So lets get digging!

Networking - so little time so many options

Have you noticed how many opportunities you have these days to network. Whether it is conferences or networking web sites, they seem to be popping up everywhere. How do you make these choices when your life is already too full?

Here are some tips worth considering:
1. In regards to networking web sites (,,, each one has a personality and a style. Join all three and watch how the features play out. You will probably find that one or two really fit you and how you operate. Then stick with that one instead of trying to manage 5-6 networking profiles successfully.

2. When looking at a potential conference, the first thing you should do is throw away the promotional materials they send you. There are many good conferences but you won't know it from the materials.

3. When you find a conference that looks interesting, find someone who has gone. Usually these conferences tend to focus on a certain type of person. Some attract CEO-level people and are most beneficial to them. Others attract workers who are dealing with very practical day-to-day issues. You need to know that so that you will understand what kind of networking can be accomplished.

4. The city where it's held is important. Are there other organizations/people you need to meet with in town? If so you can combine the event with other key meetings.

5. The keynote speakers are usually hyped significantly. Think about listening to something they have online via podcast. Or read something they have written. Decide whether hearing from them will help you in your specific ministry/function.

I hope these help you as you wade through the onslaught of networking opportunities.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Crowdsourcing Your Ministry

The concept of crowdsourcing can revolutionize our ministry initiatives. By looking to the crowds of people who interact with your ministry for new ideas and creative strategies, you can seriously expand your potential.

Many times when we are in need of new ideas we look to consultants or other vendors. There is nothing wrong with that for sure . . . outside vendors play a key role in innovation. But what we don't often consider is that the crowd of people around us might play a role as well.

What projects do you need a breakthrough in? What crowd of people might you mobilize today?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The conference you didn’t go to

This has happened to everyone! You open up a magazine and see an advertisement for yet another conference. As you scan the list of speakers and seminars, you get more and more excited. Then you see the details. Yes, its in Switzerland. Yes, the cost per attendee is huge. Yes, the only hotel you can stay at cost 150.00 per night. “Oh well, so much for that opportunity,” you say as you flip the page.

Well, this time the story will be different. I would like to introduce you to one of the premier conferences in the area of innovation. And the good news is that it is FREE! Well, better said, the conference is insanely expensive but all the content is uploaded to the internet for everyone afterwards.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a unique event that brings together innovators from these three areas to produce a very exciting event. The speakers are the top innovators and thinkers. This is a great opportunity for you to access some of the newest thinking and apply it to your ministry context.

I would recommend you start with these:
Hans Rosling brings life to data and helps us apply it practically -

Paul Bennett shares how to innovate with design –

Jeff Bezos from Amazon talks about innovation online –

Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, shares about practical conservation –

If you are reading this from somewhere in the world where high-speed Internet is not yet your reality, don’t worry. You can also get much of the concepts and ideas through the TED blog: .

I hope this resource will help you engage with new ideas and apply them creatively to missions.