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.