Saturday, May 19, 2012

Innovation as a Generous Mind

Dear Innovation In Mission Community,

We are relocating our ongoing discussion about innovation to our Generous Mind blog where we will be covering this topic along with topics related to our latest book "Through the River" and the cause of being a Generous Mind. We hope you will join us by clicking here!

Thank you for your faithful following and we look forward to having you join our Generous Mind Community.

Jon and Mindy Hirst

Friday, August 05, 2011

Embracing the Whole Picture

"We are grateful that he gave so much time coming to the poorer nations ... simply to teach us the Bible." Ajith Fernando about John Stott

Most people latch on to a specific idea and make it their life's mission. We are told at every turn to focus our efforts in order to create something truely unique and to get the attention of an increasingly distracted audience. So in the interest of efficiency and focus, we "zoom in" on what we believe we can offer to the world.

There is great value in focused work, but I worry that our persistent focus, and the pride that it so often brings, is causing us to lose site of the larger picture. We have all met those individuals who act like their cause or idea is the most important one in the world - to the exclusion of all others.

We need a broader more balanced approach to our efforts as innovators and Generous Minds. This was one of the main lessons that I took away from watching the interactions online after John Stott passed away recently. In the articles, videos and quotes that I saw, I got a sense for a man who saw the whole vision for the church so clearly. And this larger vision allowed him to focus in on specific ideas or efforts at certain times. But I get the sanse that he never lost the larger perspective on God's heart for His creation.

I think that is why so many of the reflections about John Stott speak about humility. Because his identity was not wrapped up in his particular agenda, God grew him into a humble man who was there to serve those around him. The quote from Adjith Fernando at the top of this article embodies that so powerfully.

Our best efforts can look like self-serving agendas and personal passions to the outside world. I would encourage you to read David Brook's article about John Stott to see how he was viewed differently than so many in the Christian world.

As I read David Neff's article at the time of John Stott's 90th birthday, I got another insight into this amazing servant of God. David zero's in on John's discipline. Incidentally, I saw a tweet from Billy Graham's grandson, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, talking about John's discipline as well.

Not only did John Stott see the bigger picture and enter it with humility, but he was extremely disciplined in his very specific ministry efforts. I believe these factors held in creative tension were part of the reason that he is known as one of the fathers of modern evangelicalism.

Do we bring the balance between "big picture" and "focused effort" along with the "humility to serve" and "discipline to achieve"? These things will seem to pull us in very different directions at times. But all these things are important to God and He will give us the ability to embrace each for the benefit and blessing they bring to our labors.

Take some time to read the quotes from John Stott that I curated from twitter and the commemorative video that has been watched by over 10,000 people.

"We should travel light and live simply. Our enemy is not possessions but excess." John RW Stott

“God’s church means people not buildings, and God’s word means Scripture not traditions." -John Stott”

“The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross … not the scales.” (John Stott)

"The Gospel isn't good advice to men but good news about Christ; not an invitation to do, but a declaration of what God has done." John Stott

"Christians need to look like what they're talking about"-John Stott

"Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for You" - John Stott

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Building Trains or Train Tracks

As many of you know I am currently investing much of my energy in creating innovation around publishing - specifically eBooks. This is a market that is changing dramatically each and every day. I call it the Wild West of book publishing. So in a space as in flux as publishing, how do you innovate intentionally?

Well, I got a key insight wen reading Kristin Butler's post on 7 Platforms that are Changing Publishing. This article is a must read even if you are not involved in publishing because of the creative innovations it highlights. So here is my thought for the day. When you are in a dynamic and changing field your innovation will either change the train or the train tracks. (Most of the innovations in the article are train innovations.)

If your innovation changes the train tracks, you are talking about the infrastructure that the whole new industry is riding on. In the eBook world the train tracks are the platforms (ie Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Google) that allow you to buy, access and read your books.

If your innovation changes the train, you are talking about products and services that ride on that infrastructure and utilize it to deliver things to customers at their point of need. In the eBook world a great example (listed in the article I mentioned above) is The Domino Project - an innovative publishing effort spearheaded by Seth Godin and delivered via Amazon's system.

As I considered this reality, it became clear that building train tracks is hard work. And beyond the huge time and money it takes, you have to win or you are relegated to the junk pile. When trains were a new innovation, there were different widths for train tracks in various parts of the world. But sooner or later most of those variations disappeared because people needed to get goods everywhere and various sizes and types of tracks were not a good idea (unless you wanted to keep people out).

Because of this, the players that can afford to innovate at the train track level will be very few and will involve incredible risk, investment and mass adoption. The area of innovation with much more room for creativity and the ability to build niche audiences is in the work of building trains. Once the train tracks are set, you can build all kinds of trains. Trains for circus animals . . . trains for coal . . . trains for people. The potential is only limited by the demands of those wanting to use that infrastructure.

This means that if you don't want to risk it all to set the standard for the train tracks you can still be a key part of the innovation in your industry. You can identify a group of people who want to use that infrastructure and build a train that will serve them well.

Even though the idea of building the infrastructure is a sexy one, the implementation is brutal with many harrowing stops and turns. But train building, while difficult and challenging, is much more likely to lead to success.

Can you identify the train tracks and trains in your area of innovation? What will be your focus?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Innovators Beware

This week two high level leaders have fallen. The IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger have been in the news for alleged sexual crimes in the first case or an affair in the second.

As I saw all the media around these two situations, I can't help but think about the impact that our choices have on our life's work. We can be highly successful innovators and leaders, but if we make the wrong choices in any area of our life, those innovations are at risk.

But so often we convince ourselves that the decisions in our lives are not that connected. We think that somehow we can indulge in one area of life and keep discipline and structure in another area. But that is not the case. Our actions and decisions all impact each other and define who we are.

If you are working on an important Kingdom innovation right now, are you watching out for the other areas of your life? Are you asking God to protect you from harmful decisions and costly mistakes? Don't consider yourself immune. Instead depend on God for all areas of your life - not just the innovations you are risking so much to birth!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What are you Hungry For?

Our minds imagine that those innovators who are very successful have an almost animal-like drive to accomplish their goal. They are focused, passionate and never satisfied with less than success. This is the picture that so many of us paint of successful innovation. And some of this caricature is valid.

But what about contentment? What about resting in Christ as you develop and design your innovation? To the world, that seems like a weak response to the challenges we face. But that is exactly what God calls us to do.

But what does contentment in light of innovation look like. One example is the story of Ron Pritz at OC International that we are highlighting on the Generous Mind Blog. Here is a man who gets to steward a 2 million dollar gift for the ministry and help OCI to innovate and do new projects, and what does he talk about? Contentment.

Most of us in his shoes would be focused on impact, results, opportunities and innovation. But if our heart is not focused right with Jesus in light of these things, then our innovations will not honor Him.

I hope you will read Ron's guest post and I am sure that you will be blessed by it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Innovation as a Means of Grace

Innovation is simply seeing out ahead of the present, identifying a need and creating a unique way to meet it. The problem usually comes in the first part of that definition. When we try to see out ahead, sometimes we have moments of amazing clarity and see things as they will become. Other times we miss it entirely. Still other times we think our vision will happen more quickly than it does.

More and more I have been focusing on the process of innovation in the lives of those involved. We usually judge an innovation as successful by what it accomplishes in financial return or human progress. But what if we were to begin measuring how it changes the innovator? I think you would find a much lower rate of failure among innovative efforts if one of the prime criterion's for success was the growth and development of the innovator.

The term "means of grace" refers to an activity that is part of the process that Jesus uses to reclaim our hearts and grow us closer to Him. Any activity can be a means of grace if God chooses to use it that way.

But I think that innovations are very likely to be used as tools by our Heavenly Father because innovative efforts require risk and great effort. In those moments of innovation we are extremely vulnerable and our protective layers are peeled away as we strive and struggle to accomplish the task in front of us.

In those moments, Jesus can show us many things. He can grow us up, tackle self-deception, give us new insights, and so on. So here is the question. If you are in a time of innovation in your life, are you offering this unique time of your life up to God and asking Him to grow you close to Him as you work? I would challenge you to consider that approach to your efforts and you may just find that even if your innovation never makes it to prime time, that you have gained more eternal benefit than you could ever imagine

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

7 Ways to Stop a Movement

I found this great thought on Twitter that I had to share with you: "7 things stop a movement: big buildings, big programs, big personalities, big control, big money, big meetings, big policies." (via @floydmcclung) Isn't it amazing that the very things which are most likely to kill new ideas and movements are the very definition of success for many of us? Is that true for you? As you think about your innovation and the movement that you are seeking to start around your idea, consider how you are defining success. If you are dreaming about someday sitting in a corner office of a big building presiding over big meetings, you have not made the shift to a leaner and more networked dynamic that define innovations today. You may be wildly successful with your idea and always work out of your home. So don't buy into those old ideas of success and kill your innovation in the process. Be willing to redefine how your innovation might grow and develop into a movement.