Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Urbana09 - Day 3 Twitter Wrapup

Here is a cross section of Twitter posts from December 30 at Urbana:

RT @MeandMyHouse: “Every generation needs its prophets to cleanse the temple like Jesus did.” Ramez Atallah #itsnotaboutyou #urbana09

RT @lovingmercy: Be gracious to the previous generation and their mistakes; be courageous in your own generation. #urbana09

RT @gomer2: Oscar Muriu wrecked my life in 06, he did it again last night at #urbana09. Watch his talk here:

RT @hopeequals: RT @CRCNA: News story about @hopeequals, CRWM's peace-focused initiative launching at #Urbana09:

RT @AskAMissionary: How do I know if God is calling me to be a missionary? 7 answers here: #urbana09

RT @WeyW: Having such a good experience at #urbana09. It's been transformative. Hard to believe it's only a lil more than half finished

RT @MissionTrips: #urbana09 Overwhelmed with mission trip options? Key questions to help select a mission trip:

RT @ckeinath: #Urbana09 Humbled again, bowing to Jesus, thankful...

RT @BustaHimes: Alright, here we go York Moore is up speaking about John 3:1-21. #urbana09

RT @ryanphernandez: Sitting soo close!! Snow + #urbana09 = awesome!!! Expecting great things from this session

RT @Likewise_Books: RT @Chris_Heuertz: If you're at Urbana (#urbana09) today, grab a copy of Simple Spirituality-the Book of the Day

RT @Angelamz40: Urbana 09: Glow sticks in crowd = new believers! And the Angels rejoice in heaven! #urbana09

RT @MaryknollFrsBrs The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get 2 Him, the more intensely missionary we become. Martyn

RT @bensonlee: "Be thankful that hunger is an experience we create at a convention and not your daily reality." -- Greg Jao #urbana09

RT @TWRglobal: At the #u09twtup listening to @lukejesse talk about how the Tweet Up is going to go down. Great team here! #urbana09

RT @MaryknollFrsBrs: "Sympathy is no substitute for action." - David Livingstone, missionary to Africa. #urbana09

RT @USCWM: No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once. -- Oswald Smith #urbana09

RT @fotofreak365: Does anyone else feel like the booths are really intimidating? #urbana09

RT @bensonhines: My first thoughts about what the Urbana conference reveals to outsiders about InterVarsity! #urbana09

RT @decruzp: Wednesday night worship at #urbana09

RT @adamlepp: #urbana09 I have this hope. His name is Jesus. He alone brings healing

RT @lisasharper: #urbana09: Denise Thompson: People of faith need to take up the challenge to help solve the problem of Climate Change.

RT @tanacea: So much praying is repeating back to God what he already knows. #urbana09

You can follow along as I pass on what people are saying from Urbana09 at:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Urbana09 - Day 2 Twitter Wrapup

Here are some of the tweets that came out of today's conversations and presentations:

RT @Angelamz40: RT @lovingmercy: Love does not reach from afar, it becomes incarnational. #urbana09 (via @mmesachi)

RT @mmesachi: RT @lovingmercy: Evangelism is firstly relational. #urbana09

RT @Angelamz40: Our prayer: open our blind eyes and break our hard hearts. Save us from pride/prejudice/superiority. #urbana09

RT @Liz_Pix: AM bible session. John 2:1-12. Often times we can taste the glory of God but still not give him the glory for it. #urbana09

RT @TheTatar: "May the people here make decisions that will change history." Yes, Lord, help us change history! #urbana09

RT @HeatherTWR: Ramzez Atallah and Dave Ramsey agree- ACT YOUR WAGE and GIVE LIKE NOONE ELSE! #urbana09

RT @michaelkaspar: RT @julioanta: "Build movements, not monuments" - Ramez Atallah #urbana09. #OMbooth1107

RT @RLouisT: The Great commission & Great Commandment go hand in hand. Love by word and deed. This is the Biblical Mandate frm God #Urbana09

RT @sudantweets: RT @simusa: RT @goodsirdavid: There are currently 15,000 people in auditorium in St Louis cheering 4 Wii tennis. #urbana09

RT @hcjbglobal: Come chat with Radio Trainer Allen Graham from Quito Ecuador at 2:15 booth 1100 #itsnotaboutyou #urbana09

RT @USCWM: Keep the conversation going: articles on slave trade, trafficking etc #urbana09

RT @bensonlee: standing room only out the door for the prayer, fasting, scripture and worship 101 seminar at #urbana09

RT @aaivprays: #urbana09 John Perkins: our blessings from God were never meant for us, but to be shared with others.

RT @christian2do: RT @hcjbglobal: chat w/ Singapore based Ty Stakes about engineering music & farming @booth 1100 at 6pm tonight. #urbana09

RT @acjeske: #urbana09 I am one of the urbana photographers. Shots up at ! More soon!

RT @Mexicachel: The bible condemns heterosexual sin at least ten times more than homosexual sin #urbana09

You can follow my messages and RT's during the day at

Urbana09 - Day 1 Twitter Wrapup

Each day of Urbana09 I am going to do a wrap-up of twitter posts that I have made or that I have RT'd. My thought is that this will give you a unique and creative insight into the event. I encourage you to go to the daily Webcast to listen in with much more detail to the great speakers.

Day 1 Twitter Wrapup

RT @Linson_Daniel: Let scripture speak John 1:35-42 manuscript study this morning, Where r u staying? Come and you will see... #urbana09

RT @AndrewPass: #urbana09 Jesus speaks to people in community. The disciples are not isolated!

RT @morganjustin: 'Being criticized feels bad. But, feeling bad always wears off.' #urbana09

RT @IJMcampaigns: Hundreds at #urbana09 take stand for oppressed by wearing shirts

RT @GEMission: #Urbana09: He Dwelled Among Us. Following Christ how can u be missional presence 4 Christ in the community He has u?

RT @djchuang247: #urbana09 splitting an extra-large pizza w new strangers who'll be friends before we finish

RT @jiolasa: RT @OMurbana: Please help us spread the word. A donor will buy 1,000 Iraqi bibles if we get 1,000 people to 1107. #urbana09

RT @philfoell: after his birth, Jesus was forced to become an international refugee to Africa. Jesus identifies with refugees. #urbana09

RT @philfoell: Social action without the Bible only brings momentary change. #urbana09

RT @Mexicachel: People should learn something about everywhere and everything about somewhere. #urbana09

God calls us to go to others in their context and on their terms and regardless of their response. Ramez Atallah #urbana09 - Night 1

RT @jameschoung: "Live to be forgotten ... make Christ visible, not ourselves." --Patrick Fung #urbana09

RT @aaivprays: #urbana09 tonight, stories of God's people: the displaced, the disadvantaged, the oppressed, widows & orphans & foreigners.

RT @Samlopez: The Word: Be a witness, not a traffic obstruction. #urbana09

Follow along as I RT and comment on Urbana09 at

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sharing Twitter Updates from Urbana 09

No, I'm not at Urbana 09 but I am very excited about what God will do through the event in the lives of those who are there.

For those of you who, like me, are not there here are two things you can do:
1. Be praying for the 17,000 young people who are there.
2. You can follow all the Retweets that I will be syndicating from my twitter account at

Have you been to Urbana in the past? What did God do in your life through it?

Why bother innovating if we serve God?

Philip had this great question to my blog post about Ancient Inspiration:

"Why do we need innovation when we have God? Surely He will pass on what he wants us to be innovative about. It is His will and all our fates are determined by Him."

Let me share with you my reply:
Dear Philip,
Great question. I don't think that human innovation and God's revelation are mutually exclusive. In fact, I would say that God created us to innovate and uses the feature in us to inspire us. Innovation is simply us using the brains and experiences God gave us in coordination with Him to bring Him glory.

Now I know that people innovate without thinking about God at all, but I think that God still gets the glory for that since He made those people too. The study of innovation from a Biblical perspective is then our opportunity to see how God moves through us to accomplish things in this earth.

What do you think of my take? How would you respond to Philip?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ancient Inspiration

So many times when we think about innovation, we focus on the new. We look to new industries, new ideas, new perspectives for our inspiration. Think about all the magazines touting the newest trends in technology, business, culture, etc.

But to do that we miss out on a huge "field of meaning," as my partner in ministry Eric Foley likes to say. What does he mean by that? Well, as we search for innovation, we tend to look forward only. We feel that only new things can inform the future. This understanding is at the world view level and we don't even know that we think this way. It comes because progress is such a high value for those of us who are products of modernity. We truly believe that success means always pushing forward to new frontiers, new ideas, new realities.

I want to challenge that perspective on innovation today. I believe that some of our best fodder for innovation may come from our past. You see the past does a few things that the future cannot do. The past has not yet committed some of the errors that we have codified. The past can have a very different perspective on things that we now take for granted. Also, the past is sometimes an amazing lens to see the very mistakes and struggles we are mired in today.

Now the past isn't perfect. Every age is rife with ignorance, prejudice, and faulty thinking. But I would like to impress on you that the past is a source on which we can draw for our innovation efforts. It is a rich story that will give us ideas that no tech magazine could ever draw out. And we need every source we can get in order to effectively innovate in the 21st Century.

So here are some ideas:
1. Identify some innovative thinkers of the past and read their biographies.
2. Read history and look for the patterns that inform our world today.
3. Talk to grandparents and great grandparents and ask them questions about how they see the world.
4. When you find yourself assuming that the future is better, catch yourself and challenge your thinking about progress and it's inherent virtue.

So there you go, are you ready to dive into the past? I pray that God gives you some rich sources of inspiration from what He has done throughout history.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Innovation Ended Up Where?

So you come up with an idea, find your gang of co-conspiritors and launch it. Soon it is a huge success and you are off and running. But that isn't the end of the story. What you birthed could end up leading to many things that you would never expect or dare to imagine. Are you ready for that?

A great example is a wonderfully documented article by Christianity Today about the diffusion of innovation that happened as a result of launching For those of you who haven't experienced Kiva, it is a site that brings microenterprise down to the individual level allowing people to make loans to individuals around the world through qualified partners. In short, it crowdsources relief and development work and allows individual people to be a part of the global solution in a personal and transformational way.

Well, the article shows how a variety of international development ministries have now started similar projects or joined Kiva's network in order to harness the innovation that Kiva identified. 20 years ago the idea of individuals doing something as complex as lending money to a shoe maker in Guatemala would have been unthinkable. But the founders of Kiva saw how the Internet was democratizing everything and acted on that major change in the area of microfinance.

Their innovation has made many new efforts possible that the founders could never have imagined. Here are a few of them:
So now lets turn to your idea. What are you working on? What have you rolled out that is changing your area of minsitry? Are you ready for that innovation to spread?

One of the keys to being ready is to hold it lightly. So many times when we invest so much in a new idea and an innovative project, we close our hands around it and tell everyone to back off. But the rules today require the opposite. The power of your idea and its impact will depend largely on your ability to hold it loosely.

Matthew 6:20 commands us to store up our treasures in Heaven and avoid the great mistake of putting our hope and trust in things that will disappear in the face of Eternity. This means that we will have to hold our efforts loosely. But what does that look like?

Holding your innovation loosely means:
  1. Mentoring those who want to learn from your work
  2. Giving others access to your ideas is wise and sustainable ways
  3. Supporting new applications of your innovation
  4. Being generous in your encouragement of those who enter your arena
  5. Defining your success based on obedience to Christ not in the metrics of finance, fame or personal enjoyment
I know many in the ministry world who have failed to do this and it is important to consider what happens to the innovation. Those that hold their hands tightly closed see the innovations shrivel up just as the innovator becomes old and frail. They see their whole area of ministry become competitive and focused on success and notoriety. They foster all the things that might look successful in earthly terms but lead to isolation, greed and selfishness.

So you can choose how you will handle your innovation and that may make all the difference in how God will use it for His Kingdom.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ordinary Innovation

In my relentless pursuit of debunking the idea of the lone innovator sitting in the garage creating the next mode of transportation or a faster way to cook a burrito, I would like to submit to you this thought shared with us by Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table:

"A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times."

Do you believe this? I do, and let me tell you why. For many years I have been stymied by the notion that new ideas come in a burst of brilliance that dazzles the mind and immediately sets you to writing down formulas, couplets, strategic plans or recipes. So in an effort to create the right scenario that would lead to innovation I would go to great lengths to . . .

1. Make sure the lighting was right

2. Read innovative writers

3. Find that creative place that seems to be dripping with new ideas

4. Build up expectations of what would come from my time of thinking

5. And the list goes on and on

It is a bit like the person who goes to the end of the world to find the world's smartest man. There is this expectation that if all of the situational elements are just right that you can force new ideas into existence. So many times I see leaders of organizations go away to plan and pray with the hope that this will happen. I see writers looking for just the right setting to create their masterpiece. But are we taking the right approach?

More and more I'm wondering whether the greatest innovations are ideas that slowly and quietly ooze into our lives as we work away at what God has called us to. It is much less exciting and it doesn't make nearly as good of a story, but I wonder if it isn't more a reflection of reality.

One of the reasons I am leaning towards this approach to innovation is that I am becoming convinced that the level of learning you need to define something new is much greater than most of us imagine. In a world that is flooded with information, we don't consume enough of it on any one topic to build a foundation to let us innovate. More and more I see innovations happening over time as we gain that key level of knowledge.

In Malcom Gladwell's latest book "Outliers" he talks about how anyone who has reached expert level in a field has had at least 10,000 hours of practice or experience. I think that innovation requires a similar amount of experience. That is why innovation is really rare and when it does happen it is usually a surprise to the world because the innovator has been quietly learning, thinking, processing, and developing the idea for a long time.

So as you consider this alternate way to view innovation, here is my question for you - What are you investing a significant time over a long period to learn and master? I think that there is where your innovation will arise from and I imagine that it will come at the most unexpected moment of your lifelong learning process.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Innovating in a Generation

So many times when we come to the idea of innovation we focus on the old stand by - the industry. We talk about innovations in media, health care, ministry, sports, and on and on it goes. This focus on industry innovation is of course one very good way to think about our creative efforts. But it isn't the only way.

One of the keys to breaking out of the moulds that bind us is to think about the world through different perspectives and different categories. Are you following? If you only think about innovation in regards to a particular industry, then you will be limited to industry categories as you try to be creative. Sure it can lead to creativity ... but what if you thought about the same problem through a completely different category.

Lets take generations. I have a friend named Cavin Harper - president of the Christian Grandparenting Network. He saw the great challenges that families are having and especially the children. He could immediately have gone to innovate in the school system or through the government services. But he took a different approach.

Instead, he decided to ask the question, "How could grandparents be part of the solution?" Very interesting approach considering the billions of dollars we have spent in programs and services. Instead Cavin side stepped all those things and latched onto the relationship between a grandparent and their grand kid as a key tool to teach a new generation about Jesus and equip them in their faith. You have to check out what they are doing. I get to work with Cavin through my new job at .W. What a privilege to watch him take a completely different approach to innovation in this key area of training up the next generation.

From his Grand Camps to the upcoming Legacy Conference in Minneapolis. If you live in the Minneapolis area or know grandparents or parents that do, I would encourage you to consider going to this event on October 23-24. It is a great opportunity to experience a new approach to an age old challenge. If you are too far away to go, please be praying for the event and take some time to explore Cavin's approach.

But the best thing to do is hear from Cavin himself. Check out this short video where he shares his heart.

Now it's your turn. I want you to think through the innovation you are working on right now and ask these questions:
1. What is the innovation I have been working?
2. What categories have I put my work in - maybe without even realizing it?
3. What other categories might apply to my work?
4. What would a solution to my challenge look like through those other lenses?

Enjoy your re-framing work!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tell me a story friend!

One of the keys to adoption of new innovations is the story we tell people about the need and the solution. The ability to share the story in a convincing way is absolutely critical and this is one area where we often make a pretty big mess.

Have you been to a seminar where the presenter is trying to convince you of a need for a new solution but completely looses you in the explanation. I was in one recently (I'm not saying who or where :) ). He hooked the group in the plenary by challenging those who saw the problem to meet in a smaller room after the main session. But then we went there and immediately got lost in details, numbers and definitions. By the end we forgot why we were there.

In the Heath brother's latest blog post on "making it stick" they talk about the importance of explaining statistics in clear and understandable ways. Take a minute to read their thoughts. The key is the story that you build. But you've probably heard that and it doesn't necessarily give you a next step when you go to explain your next cool idea to the world.

So here we go, let me give you an outline that will help you build the story around your innovation:

A. Start with the need
  • Don't start with facts
  • Share a story that depicts the need in a very human and tangible way.
  • One example is if you are sharing about an innovation in clean water technology, show a glass of dirty water and explain what might be in it and how many people drink water just like that in a given day.

B. Share how you fit in
  • People want a human element
  • Share about your journey (quickly)
  • Explain the spiritual element and your response

C. Explain the facts
  • Using the Heath brother's example, build a story with the facts that bring them to life
  • Take your top 10 facts and ruthlessly eliminate all but 3 to share

D. Present your solution
  • Take out all the jargon / industry speak
  • Give the reasons why your innovation is key to meeting the need
  • Provide clear outcomes of what will happen if you are to succeed
  • Share endorsements of trusted people who believe that this solution will work

Ok, now it's your turn. Take this outline and insert your need, journey, facts and solution. Post your specific outline in the comments of this blog and we can all encourage each other in our communication.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where does Innovation Training Come From?

As I have watched innovators grow and develop, I often wonder how they get to be where they are? Was it all circumstance or maybe it was sheer effort. Well, in God's economy we know it was neither. We know that our understanding of God, of His values and of His direction gives us the opportunity to innovate in dynamic ways.

Recently I have been thinking alot about discipline. The nonprofit world is not all that disciplined I have noticed. We regularly miss deadlines, fail to think through issues properly and regularly invest time in things that don't have much significance. Now one could argue that it is no different from the for profit world but it seems to be allowed much easier in the nonprofit world.

After all we are working for God and He will get it done in the end . . . right?

But is that they attitude that sparks innovation? No, innovation and dynamic ministry come from a disciplined life that is finely tuned to God's voice and is willing to courageously act in God's name. How do we prepare ourselves for that kind of life?

Recently I read through a book called "Stand: unleashing the wisdom of God" by Alex McFarland. This is a small devo for young people on the book of Proverbs. As I read it I realized that one of the keys to innovation as a ministry person is learning the disciplines taught in Proverbs when we are young. That foundation is such a powerful piece of what it takes to make innovation happen.

In this short book, Alex walks through the Proverbs in a topical way based on the issues that young people are dealing with. I really enjoyed the section on leadership and self control. The idea that following God's prescriptions for life don't just lead to missing out on things that give us pleasure - they lead to significance and impact.

In the end, I think this is one of the key lessons I am learning. If I am willing to live as God asks me to, then I will be in a position to have a part in His Kingdom work. If I ignore Proverbs and other admonitions in the Bible, I will not have the Kingdom impact.

As we think about where innovation comes from, we have to go back to basic decisions like this. Our obedience to God at these basic levels will open us up to be used by Him and to innovate in incredible ways. Our unwillingness will relegate us to a life of missteps, self-focused patterns and insignificance.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Begin with the End in Mind Part II

This topic is so important that I want to park here and talk about it just a little more. I hope each of you will indulge me. But more than that, I hope you will realize how critical this topic is to innovation.

If you do not have an end identified when you go out and seek to innovate, then you will not be doing your cause any favors. Now I know many people are thinking - what about those innovators that just tinkered around until one day they invented Post-it Notes (that is the famous one from 3M).

Let me make a distinction. If you are a scientist looking to further your field then that is your end. At that point you might not have a specific cause you are focused on - instead you are wanting to see knowledge increased and new ideas/resources be brought to market. That may look like meandering but most of those people did have an end in mind.

In the case of this blog and of innovation within mission, we have "ends" that are a bit more focused. For some of you it is church planting in Africa. For others it is Internet evangelism, and still others it is new discipleship tools. Whatever the cause that God has put you on, beginning with the end in mind is critical to innovating for the Kingdom.

Let me share a few things that you are more able to do when you begin with the end in mind:
  1. Identify the key players: If you know where you are going, it is easier to identify the key individuals that you need to build relationships with, network with and partner with.
  2. Stay focused: By defining what you believe God wants you to be reaching for, you can avoid the many other "nice but not necessary" things that will pop up all around you. We all know brilliant people who can't focus on their main objective and keep getting taken down side paths to the detriment of their main project.
  3. Spot Opportunities: When you have a clear goal in mind, the "windows of opportunity" that God brings along will be very evident to you. They will jump off the page and you will be ready to engage with the opportunity that God puts in front of you. Many other people who do not have a clear focus let these opportunities pass by just because they are not sharp and focused.
  4. Learn Strategically: With focus comes intentionality. When you are focused you then look for the things you need to learn and grow in so that you can better accomplish your goal.
  5. Be Spiritually Alert: Those who are intentional about mission innovation will be spiritually alert. You will be praying about the thing God has put on your heart. You will know what sacrifices He is asking you to make. You will also be more aware of changes in the direction that God has you going. You will be able to flex and modify your focus based on how God changes the ends He has given you.

I hope this is an encouragement in the disciplines of focus, intentionality, and learning. Now here is the question: What End has God put on your heart that He would have you be focused in achieving for Him?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Begin with the End in Mind

"As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." Daniel 12:13

When Daniel received this word from God, he had just been given a revelation about the end times. But as with many of those revelations, he didn't understand much of what he saw. He was trying to be a diligent God-follower and "get it right" but you can imagine the frustration when the pieces God was sharing didn't quite make sense. Daniel wanted to understand the "how" of the prophesy but in the end God was more interested in him focusing on the "why" and the "what now".

Then, as the last verse in the book of Daniel, God tries to calm Daniel down and focus him. I love the line "go your way till the end." God had shared what would happen in the end and why it must happen, now Daniel was supposed to live out his faith with expectation of that end.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and we were talking about innovation in organizations. He shared with me an exercise he did during his masters studies that captured my imagination. The professor told the class that they should pick an age at which they think they might die (75, 80, 85, etc). Then he asked my friend and the rest of the people in the class to work their way backwards to today and try to plan out the goals they had for their lives.

My friend shared how powerful this exercise was to define values, goals and priorities. What is so special about beginning with the end in mind? Well for one it clarifies the picture quickly. When time is flowing out in front of us, then it seems like we have all the time in the world to accomplish what is on our heart. But when we start at the end and work back to today, then we have a limited space of time that we must invest wisely based on God's call on our lives.

This exercise also helps us to think through next steps. If we know where we are trying to end up, then it is easier to break it down and think through all the pieces that must come together. For example, if your goal is to innovate in how member care is carried out for missionaries from new sending countries, then you can begin to think through what experiences you must have to understand the challenges and the victories. You can think about the education you need. You can decide about the mentors you need in your life. Finally, you can think through the time it will take to build the relationships and connections that will give you a say in that particular area.

The amazing thing about this exercise is that a life becomes much shorter than we would ever imagine. From where many people sit, life flows out in front of them and there seems to be enough time to do just about anything. But when we really count our days and ask God to help us see how we should spend them, they become much more limited than we would ever realize.

As you consider the innovations that God has put on your heart, are you beginning with the end in mind? God promised Daniel that if he went his way based on all he had heard then he would receive an inheritance. What is "the way" that God is calling you to? Will you measure it and invest it for the Kingdom?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Innovation in Organizing Relationships

One of the most important resources an innovator has are his/her relationships. Think about it. Where do you get your inspiration, go to ask for help in brainstorming, go for money to fund your idea, etc. Your relationships are the fabric that allow you to innovate.

But what happens in a world where relationships are exploding through social media. Now if you are a well connected person you might have up to 1000 friends on facebook and your twitter feed might have several thousand followers. But do you know any of these people? How do you organize these relationships to be effective in your ministry innovation?

I recently posted a cartoon about social networks and relationships on facebook and began a great discussion about this topic with a fellow innovator. As we talked, he shared a system he has come up with to manage relationships and make them effective in this sea of information.

Listen to him in his own words:
"I think there is a difference between "friends," "acquaintances," and "followers." I usually think of things in terms of Dunbar's number: I have my best 15 relationships, my close 50, my near 75, and my "tribal" 150. Anything beyond that is "distant horizon associates": people who follow me or whom I follow because we share common ideas, visions . . ."

The great thing about this system is that it allows you to prioritize the sea of information and connections out there and proactively stay connected to those people that you really believe are key in your life and spiritual growth. At the same time it gives you a way not to avoid the larger group - but to keep the mass of information in context.

I love what he says about the flow of information:
"The great thing is that I don't try to keep up with every Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed post. I view them as a river or a stream that I dip into at various times."

One of the things I appreciated about his approach is that it is not static. He focuses on those relationships that are closest, but as he reads, interacts and grows personally, his system allows people to change their connection to him - closer or further away.
"The closer someone is to me, the more often I will probably be in touch with them.... my close 15 I'm probably in touch with at least once every other week if not weekly... so I'll find out what's going on in their lives from FB posts, emails, phone calls etc. typically daily or weekly. I have different levels of involvement with each of the levels (15-50-75-150-followers). I don't attempt to deepen connections with followers unless they "move" into one of the other levels..."

But you may be asking, how can you manage this in a practical way? Here is his approach:
"I have rules set up in my gmail account to automatically tag all messages from certain people according to which category they are in "best15," "close50", "near75," "tribe150" and slot them in. Then I have multiple inbox views in Gmail that let me see newest emails, as well as newest emails from best15 ... Read Moreand close50. I always respond to best15 and close50 first and then deal with everything else. And I make it a point to check in with best15 at least once a week or once every other week, just to see what they're doing, if I haven't talked to them before."

Innovation requires a proactive approach to relationships and ideas. How will you organize your relationships for greater Kingdom Impact?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Transitions Provide New Opportunities for Innovation

Many times, transitions provide key opportunities to re-evaluate our assumptions and find breakthroughs in our thinking. I am going through several key transitions and it will impact my writing on this blog significantly. I would like to share the transition with you.

Please read my full post on our Generous Mind Blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Innovation Mix

My verse all summer has been Romans 12:12 "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer." I'm not good at memorizing so I love verses like this. They are short and have 3 things!

Anyway, this has been a key verse for me because of its implications to ministry and innovation. Let me break it down for you:

1. Joyful in hope: An innovator has to be joyful. This is key because there are so many challenges and half steps in innovation work. I can guarantee you will struggle if you are depending on your own strength. But if you rely on hope in Christ, you can overcome the great obstacles that you will encounter. It is because of the hope we have that we can see beyond challenges to the big goal in front of us. That big goal is your innovation that God has set before you.

2. Patient in Affliction: When you suffer in the innovation process, be patient. So many times we demand that things be set right immediately or fixed quickly. But I have witnessed that in the pain of struggle to accomplish an innovation God will provide new opportunities and ideas that I would never have had if the pain had been avoided. Pain is an important part of what God uses to refine our ideas and our vision.

3. Faithful in Prayer: Hope is impossible to attain and Affliction is impossible to overcome without prayer. Prayer is how God keeps us steady and reassures us in our work. We tend to wander in our thinking and in our emotions but prayer brings us back to the core and reminds us of what God has put in our hearts. If we seek Him in prayer, God will not let us loose site of the vision He has given us.

I know that many of you are struggling today. You are discouraged, tired, out of ideas, questioning . . .

This verse in Romans is for you! Be encouraged.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who is TED anyway

You have heard me talk about the TED conference many times in my innovation posts. It is the premeir conference of innovators in the US. This conference is very difficult to get into and requires applications as a fellow.

I would love to see some Christian innovators as part of that group for 2010. Would you take the time to fill out the application and see what God will do. So many times I think we assume that we will not be accepted by the secular world of innovation, but we are discounting God's will be be glorified through our work.

I challenge you to dream big and apply to be a TED fellow:

Accountability as a Foundation of Innovation

When we think about innovation and the foundations that make it possible, we can't overlook accountability. If we do not have relationships of accountability, how will we ever push through on the challenging issues that are in front of us as innovators?

But so many times we decide to go it alone. Either we are scared of rejection, we don't want to take the time, or we don't want to share our big idea. But those reasons are all from our flesh - not from God. God requires us to be accountable to Him and wants us to be accountable with other believers along the way.

Read my Generous Mind post on this issue of accountability:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Innovation In Mission Ebook is Here

I know that so many of you live around the world and have had trouble accessing the "Innovation in Mission" content. Well, our publisher has launched the book as an ebook available to purchase at a lower price. I hope that this resource will be more accessible to you and others you know. Please share the link with others:

Blessings as you innovate!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Harnessing a Movement

In Matthew 4:25 the Gospels describe the crowds that followed Jesus as He spoke and healed. These were not small clusters of people interested in a curious man. These were large gatherings surrounding Jesus on all sides . . . pushing in and grasping for His hand. This was a movement. People were desperate and empty and Jesus was giving true life.

Take a minute and watch this video with me and then lets talk about it.

Jay Walker is talking about a movement. But in this case it was not the movement that surrounded Jesus 2000 years ago. It is a movement of people learning English. What does this have to do with innovation? EVERYTHING!

Innovation comes out of movements because movements represent crying needs expressed by a significant group of people. Out of movements come solutions, new ideas, creative expressions of truth and on and on. They jump of the pages of history because there is momentum behind them. The movement encourages solutions to the need that began it all.

What movements are going on in your world? How can you meet the needs of those movements through innovation and thus bring people closer to Jesus? This is the question you should be asking.

One example might be the movement of social media. How can you use that momentum to create new innovation. Another example is micro enterprise. This is a growing area that is empowering many to work and countless more to be a part through giving.

These are just two examples of movements. Now it's your turn. Share a movement in your sphere of influence and how you might use it to innovate for the Kingdom.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Open or Closed

Talking about this subject reminds me of Ecclesiastes. But it is true, there is a time to be open and a time to be closed. What do I mean by that?

One of the greatest lessons in innovation is this: knowing when to be open to new ideas and knowing when to stop soft thinking and drive the idea into reality.

This is a very hard lesson. So many times we cannot distinguish between the creative time (soft thinking) and the implementation time (hard thinking). This means that we are either always in development or we never bother to brainstorm and rush right into roll out. Both leave our project missing so much of the innovation that it could have had.

Why does this happen?
1. We do not clearly set perameters and expectations when we start a project.
2. We are not confident in our innovation and leave it open for constant revision
3. We don't value input from others so we move straight into implementing our idea
4. We are behind schedule and cannot afford to build in the time to innovate

Do these sound familiar? They should. I can't think of a ministry that doesn't struggle with this. And if that weren't hard enough let me through in another twist. Sometimes after you have done your brainstorming, come up with a plan and are in rollout, you have to open up your mind again because something has changed.

So how do you decide when to open your mind to new possibilities and when to close it and get the job done?
1. Create an environment where innovation is celebrated and decisions are honored.
2. Always be willing to entertain new ideas but keep them insulated from items already being rolled out unless they are game changers.
3. Manage expectations daily so that people know what is open for innovation and what must be closed for implementation.
4. Even while you are rolling out today's idea, be promoting and developing people's ideas for tomorrow

As you can see, it isn't black and white. Things are in constant states of opening up for innovation or closing down for implementation. But your ability to facilitate those processes will determine your success.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You will know them by their tweets . . .

As we continue to explore how information is validated and affirmed in this brave new world, I stumbled across a powerful example as I was following This person consistently shared the reality on the ground in a powerful and honest way. You felt their pain as they saw fellow countrymen beaten, their fear as they had to move locations to avoid detection, their anger as they shared about perceived injustice, and their joy as they imagined what might be. As I followed along with their feed, I saw that these people were for real. I wasn't the only one. On Tuesday of last week they had 8,000 followers and now they have over 30,000!

But then something strange happened, the Iranian secret police started infiltrating twitter and other social media sites to spread disinformation and catch this new generation of journalists. As this began to happen, @persiankiwi shared the following stream of tweets:

ok - tonight twitter is full of gov usernames. all users IGNORE all post
except from reliable sources - #Iranelection

IMPORTANT to all tweeters in iran - follow my next message carefuully -
#Iranelectionabout 2 hours ago
from mobile

do NOT follow any instructions on twitter except from the trusted sources -
cont...... #Iranelectionabout 1 hour ago
from mobile

ignore all instructions from new twitters or twitters with no history of
accurate posts - cont.... #Iranelectionsabout 1 hour ago
from mobile

i cannot name the reliable sources because we are now the main attention of
censors - but .. cont.... #Iranelection20 minutes ago from mobile

you will know them by looking at their past tweets -
cont.... - #Iranelection6 minutes ago from mobile

When I read this, I couldn't help but think about the profound statement that these simple little phrases had made. What they were saying was simple - look at what the person has said over time and if there is truth there follow them.

In other words, find those authentic voices around you and stick close to them. But what makes a voice authentic? What makes it true? Websters Dictionary defined authenticity as:
–conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
–made or done the same way as an original

In our lives as Christians, authenticity means "conforming to" Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives and representing that to others. Just like the Iranian twitterer who challenged us to look for those voices who were speaking truth about the situation in Tehran, we are challenged to be voices that represent Jesus.

In Acts 6:3 the disciples realized that they were not taking care of the needs of the believers adequately. So, in order for them to focus on preaching, they looked around for some authentic Jesus followers to take up this task. The result was the choosing of Stephen and his preparation for the ultimate sacrifice.

The apostles knew that only an authentic voice could carry out the mercy ministries in a loving and compassionate way. They looked for someone who was conformed to Jesus to "be Jesus" to others.

What a challenge. This isn't a challenge to do nice things or to look smart. This is a challenge to be the truth of the Gospel in our relationships with others. Just like Jesus represented God's love incarnate, He has now commissioned us to represent His love through our lives (although we are far from perfect as He is).

I love John 17:22-23 where Jesus prays, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

As I have been processing these ideas, I went to lunch with a new friend and a wonderful generous mind - Eric Foley. We talked about this idea of truth through relationship and how we can be Jesus to others and bring His truth to others in powerful ways. Eric definitely brought truth to me that day over an amazing lunch of asian cuisine.

So what does this have to do with innovation - besides the reference to twitter? Well, plenty. What is innovation? It is bringing a new idea - a new reality - into the world. If you are not an authentic voice with a long history of truth-telling in your life, then no one will be interested in your ideas. Only authentic voices have the opportunity to help bring innovations into this world.

What is your track record like? If your life was posted on twitter, would your tweets show a life that represents Jesus? What would people say about that long stream of thoughts, feelings and actions? Would they say, "Wow, I want to know that Jesus!" or would they say "What is this person all about - I don't get it?"

An authentic trail leads to many new opportunities . . . an innovator's dream. But a trail of lies, double-talk and selfishness leads to more of the same - a focus on self and little chance to bring new ideas into the world or impact the world in any useful way.

So are you an authentic voice?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What do green, twitter and innovation have in common?

The world is a-twitter about And as with any hype, this is all we are hearing about. Twitter has eclipsed facebook as the tool of the moment. But we know that in 6 months there will be another tool that is getting all the attention.

But this week there is a convergence that represents a new innovation that has great potential for ministry. As many of you have been following along with the turmoil in Iran, you have undoubtedly heard about the opposition's use of twitter, facebook and other tools. In a wired world, this is one of the most dramatic examples to date of a people using social media to take their cause to the world.

I followed along captivated to (one of the more reliable feeds) as they shared about speeches, beatings, moving to new hideouts and finding new cracks in the blanket Iranian police were trying to put over the Internet. I also watched as they went from 8000 followers on Tuesday to almost 30,000 on Saturday.

As @persiankiwi along with many others began sharing what was going on people started to put #iranelections at the end or beginning of their twitter or facebook posts. This tag allowed all the feeds that included it to be searched and streamed together. You can go to: to see the constantly growing list of messages with this phrase.

What this did was unite thousands of people - some in Iran getting out messages and others in various parts of the world sharing those messages or responding with their encouragment.

This feature has become a key part of mobilizing people around events and ideas. So I gave it a try early this week. On Tuesday morning I started using #iranprayers and encouraging others to do the same. You can now go to and see over 6 pages of messages with that tag.

One of the innovations in technologies like twitter is the ability to have countless people anywhere in the world engage in one discussion. This is a powerful tool for ministry. Where before we tried to beam messages about missions to people we had to push them out and hope that someone listened. Now we can launch a message and then watch as the world jumps in. For instance, you can connect with countless people talking about missions by searching

Now think about your cause - whatever it is. How could you harness the power of these tools to begin a global conversation about your cause and to raise awareness just as people are doing about the protests in Iran? How could you build your tribe of people with a passion for your cause using tools like this?

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reimagining Reality

In my last post, I threw out the Innovation Challenge: What did the top 10 most creative people (according to Fast Company) do to change their industries.

Here is the answer: Reimagine Reality.

Dan Elliott, from Tyndale House Publishers, is our winner with this answer, "each of these innovative leaders did something unexpected, combining multiple disciplines to create a product that is remarkable, worth talking about."

This lesson is so critical for us as innovators. An innovative leader has to do two things to change the rules and think in new ways:

1. Accurately Define Reality:
First an innovator has to define reality accurately. So many times we see people flounder because they do not correctly define reality. What does this mean? This means that we have to be brutally honest about the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If your church is shrinking each month, you have to look at the reasons. If your ministry project is stuck in the mud, you have to ask the tough questions. Only when we define reality accurately can we think creatively about solutions.

2. Reimagine Reality:
What each of the 10 people that I shared with you did was to clearly understand reality and then turn it on it's head. Whether they redesigned how we listen to music, rethought the infrastructure to power electric cars or reimagined comedy, each of them took that clear view of reality and then got creative with it.

Ministry Application
In ministry we are afraid to look at reality clearly because of the many challenges we face. And so, when we try to brainstorm and think creatively we are usually doing it from a faulty understanding of our surroundings. It is only when we take the time to really understand the forces at work and the dynamics of our situation that we can truly be innovative.

This means that you have to take time before the brainstorming sessions and they consultants to understand your world with it's blessings and it's challenges. Once you understand it and accept what God has given you to work with, then you are in a position to reimagine it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Innovation Challenge

Today's post has an assignment . . . with a prize! Many of you have joined me on a journey to imagine with missional innovation looks like. We have highlighted people, talked about new ministry/outreach and shared about the challenges and blessings of innovation.

So this group should be pretty qualified to do some analysis and synthesis about innovation. In our test, the subjects we will study are the top 10 creative people as selected by Fast Company Magazine. They actually named 100 top most creative people, but we are going to focus on what FC believes are the cream of the crop.

Here is our test: Can you look at this list, read each bio and see the common thing that each of them did which enabled them to change their industries? There are many things, but one stands out - at least to me :).

Here is the prize: I will send two copies of our book "Innovation in Mission" to the first person to submit the right answer as a comment to this blog posting. Why two? One for you and one for you to share with a fellow innovator that you are connected with.

Click on this link to visit the list of the 100 Most Creative People

Here is the top 10 list with links to the individuals:
Jonathan Ive: Apple Designer
"There's an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there's real simplicity. This looks simple, because it really is."- Design According to Ive, Wired

Melinda Gates: Co-Founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
"We literally go down the chart of the greatest inequities and give where we can effect the greatest change."- Melinda Gates goes public , Source

Shai Agassi: CEO of Better Place

Reed Hastings: CEO of Netflix
"There is a revolution happening, and within two years I think that Wi-Fi and Netflix will be built into all the televisions." - On the possibility of Netflix being built into televisions, New York Times Blog Jan 2009

Rich Ross: President, Disney Channels Worldwide
“Kids on the street can tell you what my priorities are,” Mr. Ross said. “I’m a wild optimist. You see that thread through anything we do. There are hard times, and there are not-so-hard times, but at the end it is an O.K. world.”- Oh, Grow Up, Mr. Ross, NY Times

Sandy Bodecker: VP of global design, Nike
"Like Nike, I believe in the power of human potential to do amazing things whether it's on the playing field of life or sport."Fast Company interview, Fast Company

Tero Ojanpera: Executive VP at Nokia
"What was formerly known as the cell phone is democratizing innovation,"

Michelle Ganeless: President, Comedy Central
The goal is "to make sure our content is everywhere our viewers are. We want everything to be accessible, sortable, and sharable."

Jon Rubinstein: Executive chairman, Palm

James Schamus: CEO, Focus Features

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Crossroads of Crisis and Opportunity

As ministries, we have come to a crossroads of crisis and opportunity. The economy and the culture have changed the rules and we have the great privilege of asking God how He would have us respond. What we do at this crossroad will dictate our future and our very survival in many cases. Our instinct as conservative, low-risk organizations will be to pull back, cut our losses and hunker down.

I believe that it would be a mistake to fall into that frame of mind. I believe that the only ones that will survive this troubled time will be those that:
1. Know what they are best at
2. Are engaging their advocates/recipients in transformational ways
3. Have a vision for what the world will look like when we rebound from the crisis

If we can engage our advocates and recipients with what we are best at with a vision for our place in a world recovering from crisis, then we can use that momentum to create action plans.

As I have been processing this, I went to Fast Company’s “Fast 50”. This is an interactive list of the 50 most innovative companies. I studied the top 20 of these companies, here is what I learned:
  • The most innovative organizations are, at their highest levels, defined by innovation in technology – whether they sell shoes (Zappos), megawatts of electricity (NextEra Energy) or computers (HP).
  • The reality that products and services require mobility oriented around the consumer drive these companies. (i.e. Pure Digital Technologies’ Flip Camera)
  • Social responsibility is evident throughout these organizations and it manifests itself in authentic ways based on what these organizations care about. (i.e. Gilead Sciences’ Access program to provide key drugs to poor countries)
  • These companies have perfected the art of knowing the needs of their customer/audience and meeting it in creative, practical, stylish ways. (i.e. Ideo’s pursuit of a “human centered methodology”)
  • At their core, the most innovative organizations have a “participatory DNA”. This means that they have created their organizations so that innovation will bubble up. Staff and customers will be a part of their process/products, and decisions are made dynamically and in a distributed way. (i.e. Team Obama, Google, Facebook, Cisco Systems and Hulu)

Challenging Implications for Ministries:

  • Technology: In the early days missions were extremely technology driven as they used every tool to overcome huge obstacles. But we have given this distinctive up and now most of our core processes/services/products are not driven by innovative technology.
  • Mobility: We have fared better with mobility. Because our work and the geopolitical situations are always changing we have become effective at making our solutions mobile. With more technology we could be even more mobile.
  • Green (Social Responsibility): Because we have a Kingdom focus that has traditionally centered on Eternal things rather than bettering life in this world, we are very weak here. That in itself is not bad because we have set our sites on bringing people into God's Kingdom. However, in order to speak to the coming “green” generation we must put our Kingdom work into language understood by a generation of people that will be redefined by social/environmental responsibility.
  • Consumer Focus: This item is the greatest single threat to the survival of many ministries. At the core of our Christian beliefs is that we should be God-centered and focused on a life of service and sacrifice. In an increasingly post-Christian / self-centered world, we will find ourselves increasingly at odds with what the marketing, fundraising, promotions experts tell us to do. We will be forced to make very difficult choices between transactional success and transformational focus. What I mean by this is that the realities of an overcrowded nonprofit marketplace will force us to either try and compete for consumers by appealing to their needs (whether we agree with them or not) or we will try to engage consumers and help to raise their sites beyond themselves and to the needs of others based on our beliefs and convictions.
  • Participatory DNA: Currently many ministries do not have a participatory DNA as organizations. Because of hierarchical structures, low tolerance for ambiguity, and a “limited good” mentality internally, we are not able to give our staff, donors, partners or ministry recipients the ability to participate significantly in who we are and what we will become.

These are very quick commentaries on issues that have many facets, reasons and potential solutions. The purpose of this blog posting is not to lay them out in the greatest detail or to provide extensive ideas on how to fix them. My main purpose is to show some of the key factors that are helping secular organizations lead the way in innovation and then contrast them with the realities we face in Christian nonprofits. Our survival depends on us looking at reality and then asking God how He might allow us to make a difference.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Giving Your Innovation a Stress Test

So we have a new concept in our dictionary thanks to the recession and its challenges - "Stress Test." We have heard the government talking about giving the banks a stress test to see if they are able to recover and serve their customers. This phrase is part of a long line of phrases that enter our vocabulary through the media. Think about the concept of a "carbon footprint" as another example. We could go on and on.

Well, since we have this new phrase in our media stream, why don't we use it to talk about innovation in mission. What does stress testing have to do with innovation? I'm glad you asked.

When we come up with a new idea and prototype it, the environment we are testing in is very limited. It is limited by those who are testing it as well as the volume of people who are experiencing it. This means that your idea is going to be encountered first by people a lot like you and only a few of them.

But if your idea takes off, then it will run into people very different than you and in large numbers. Here is where we usually make our mistake. When we do our prototypes and tests, we assume that if we received positive results we should expect these when we launch our idea to the wider world. That is an assumption that can ruin a good innovation.

So I am recommending that we stress test our innovations to see if they will hold up to the success we are praying for. Here are a few thoughts on how to do that:

1. Test your idea with those in your circle, but then do another test with part of your audience that is very different than you are. For example, if you are creating a small group material for churches, test it with those in your church but then find a church that is very different from yours to do another test.

2. Do some role playing to consider how you would handle bandwidth. When you do your tests, figure how many hours you spent providing service for your idea. Now multiply that by several hundred or thousands (taking into account automated systems and familiarity) and imagine how you will support your innovation. If you can't imagine doing it, then you need to build in some automated systems or get some more people involved.

3. Consider how you will handle both praise and criticism for your idea. Can you effectively take advantage of endorsements and fans and build on them? Can you provide interaction and explanations for those who will complain?

4. Define how you will judge success with your innovation. How will your service, tool, resource transform lives and engage people with Jesus? Are there elements of your process, product, delivery that will keep you from reaching that ultimate goal?

I could write many more stress test items, but you get the idea. The better you do at vetting your idea before you go live, the more effective you will be in serving those who God has called you to. So as you develop your idea, make sure you stress test it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Take 24 hours . . . create a movement

In Seth Godin's latest TED Talk, he challenges us about the way that leadership happens. Seth shares three phases of how leadership has manifested itself. First it came through factories and industrial efficiency. Then it came through television and mass media. Now he says that leadership is exhibited through ideas. And the groups that form around ideas are called Tribes (the name of his new book).

"That what we do for a living now, all of us, I think, is find something worth changing, and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea. And it becomes something far bigger than ourselves. It becomes a movement. So when Al Gore set out to change the world again, he didn't do it by himself. And he didn't do it by buying a lot of ads. He did it by creating a movement. Thousands of people around the country who could give his presentation for him. Because he can't be in 100 or 200 or 500 cities in each night." Seth Godin

This talk highlights a significant change from industrial power to media savvy and finally to the harnessing of information. It is so important for any missional innovator to understand this trending. This trending looks overwhelming but it is very good news for nonprofits. Why is that?

It is simple. In our nonprofit reality, we don't have huge factories that push out our services. We also don't have the money to take advantage of the mass media the way that the large companies do. But we do have ideas. We have ideas that can be honed, harnessed and delivered to those who will be passionate about them. We are probably more suited to create powerful ideas that move people's hearts than anyone else.

So this latest movement of leadership into the hands of those who formulate and present ideas gives us all some exciting opportunities. This means that you don't have to have the infrastructure to produce product or the money to fund advertising to make a difference.

So listen to Seth's talk above, and begin thinking more about your big idea. How will you lead out? How will you present your idea to the world and use it to change the world for the better? How will your innovation bring glory to the Kingdom? That's our task as mission innovators.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Effective Ministry in the Face of a Pandemic

Awhile ago, we tried something crazy. Mindy and I pulled together a missionary who lived through SARS in Asia, a psychologist, a missiologist and a doctor for a conversation. We call it a Generous Mind Conversation. What did we talk about? We talked about the dynamics of a pandemic and what ministry would look like in that situation.

Out of the conference call and each of their thoughts, we created one concise article that took all of their ideas and wove them together. The result was a dynamic presentation of how to prepare for a pandemic and then how to shine for Jesus during such a catastrophe.

As we face the Swine Flu and see what a pandemic might look like, it is a good time to ask yourself, "Am I prepared to reach out even in a pandemic?" After all, God has put us here to be a beckon of hope no matter what the situation around us. Will you have the courage to be innovative in a pandemic?

Read our article published by Momentum Magazine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shining Your Star

The analogy of a "shining star" or a "rising star" is very common in our success vocabulary. We hear it used in sports, business and education. Usually it refers to a person that is standing out or on the rise. Today I would like to apply the analogy to your innovation.

When we come up with an idea and begin to bring it into the world, we immediately run into one of the greatest tensions any innovator will ever face. Each day you are faced with the decision to either build/enhance/resource your innovation further or promote and market your idea. Usually you can't do both at the same time. So daily you make decisions about which is more important to your idea's success.

The strategic innovator knows when to focus on the details of the star and when to polish it. If you star is all polish and no mass, then you will disappoint people very quickly after their initial interest. If you have the best designed and smoothest running star in the galaxy but no polish, there won't be anyone to enjoy it.

Like anything else, we are looking for a wise balance. But first lets consider the folly of to much focus on either side.

No Polish:
I have sat with many presidents and ministry leaders who had an idea, saw a need and built something. They innovated in their area of ministry and there it sat. Sometimes that meant that there were 10,000 of them sitting in their warehouse. Other times it meant that a web site went unvisited. In many of these cases the product/service/outreach was strong. The philosophy was there and the back office support was there. But they had failed to think through how they would share it with the world and if the world even wanted it.

Too Much Polish:
I have also spent time with many innovators in ministry who have the best PowerPoint presentation, a great smile, powerful stories and examples, but no product . . . no service. When you push them, they are always in the process but there is nothing to back up what is on their heart. They go from meeting to meeting and from conference to conference selling their hopes and dreams.

In both cases the motivations are usually very good. What happens is that some innovators are introverts and others are extroverts. When God puts an idea on your heart and you hit the go button, you usually default to what comes naturally. That means that you approach your task with the skills you have.

If you love people and conferences, you take your idea on the road. If you love to tinker and work in silence then you start developing and you work till it is perfect. Both approaches if extreme will lead to failure.

The key is to know how you are wired and how you will want to spend each day and compensate. If you want to hit the road with your idea, you either have to plan it between idea development or have others helping you with the details. If you are in the back room tinkering all day, you need to force yourself to get out there or have people who come alongside you and help with this.

The innovators who learn to balance building and shining their stars are the ones positioned to impact lives. Are you one of them?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Snowman on a Grassy Lawn

This weekend was a strange one is Southern Colorado. It is mid-April and we had a huge snow storm sweep through. However, it was that odd mix of warm weather and snow that produces a gigantic slushy the size of several counties.

We really enjoyed watching the snow fall and seemingly melt right into the layer of ice on the ground. After a while it started to accumulated. We got about 3-4 inches of the sloppy stuff. So when the snow stopped and the clouds began to clear, our family went out and made a snowman.

This was the most perfect snow for snowman making. Every role of that snow pulled up everything under it. In no time we had the four piece and began to assemble it.

Later that day as it got warmer, I looked out and saw something I had never seen before. Our snow man was standing on a lawn of green grass - like an ice sculpture at a party. That was a first for me and as I looked at it and thought about the hilarious contradiction, I had some thoughts about innovation.

The snow is a lot like ideas. There are times when the snow is falling and it seems like everyone has a winning idea. I have lived through a time like this in the late 90's. As those ideas fall and seem so plentiful, it is tempting to let they lie there knowing you can simply come back for one later.

But as many discovered during the dot com boom and then bust, most of those ideas and the opportunity to make them a reality did not stick around too long. The ideas that made it were ones that got built up, crafted and designed in the good years - like our snowman. The only reason he hadn't melted is because of the packed snow and the concentration of cold. The crafting helped him live on an entire day longer than the rest of the snow that had been laying on the ground.

Have you been paying attention to your ideas? Have you been crafting them and defining them when there is plenty of raw material around? Take the time to do so, because if you don't you will wake up and find your ideas have melted away.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Success Redefined

Whenever we think about innovation, our minds immediately turn to success. We imagine the moment when our idea sees the light of day and the world is changed - or at least something is changed. That is what drives innovation.

But how is success defined? In our individualistic culture, we define success very much as a person's perseverance against the odds to engage a problem and find a solution. In Malcom Gladwell's most recent book, Outliers, he helps dispel this idea of success and instead paints a picture that is much more real. He shows how opportunities, culture, tradition and community make success possible. This is a huge lesson for us as missional innovators.

Here are some of the key takeaways:
1. Key Opportunities Make a Difference: Gladwell shows how Bill Gates, hockey players born in January and Italian immigrants in a specific Pennsylvania town had opportunities and surroundings that made success possible. Think about your world. What are the key opportunities that God has given you specifically? How will God use those to advance His kingdom?
2. 10,000 Hours: Gladwell shows that anyone who has broken down the barriers and succeeded has practiced for at least 10,000 hours. Whether they were a programmer, a musician or an athlete, there is something that happens when a person spends enough time on a certain activity. That proficiency is key. What are you good at? Are you spending enough time working at it? Or are you getting caught up in TV or other distractions?
3. Culture: Gladwell talks about how your Southern states view honor, how some countries view power and how Asians farm can impact success. Do you understand the culture that you live in? Are you aware of other cultures and observant about how you interact? Your heritage plays into your reality and impacts success.
4. Genius: Gladwell dispels the notion that genius alone equals success. He shows how other factors play into whether a genius will be successful. How are you using the skills and intelligence that God has given you?
Now one of the major factors that Gladwell doesn't address in success is the will and actions of our God as He works through us to accomplish His will. That doesn't mean that each of the things that Gladwell talks about aren't true. But it does mean that there is another factor out there for us to consider. When we are broken and surrendered to Jesus, He can use us in ways that go beyond our culture, our intellect, our opportunity and our investment in our skills.
As I read this book, I realized how complicated success is and why so few people achieve it. I also rejoiced knowing that the success in God's eyes is very different. Success in His world is judged based on sacrifice, surrender, humility, faith, hope and love.
So read this book. It is a powerful tool to help you see how earthly success happens. And then be thankful that beyond these real world rules is a God who works through us to innovate and birth new ideas.