Benjamin McNutt: Four ways to be boring
How your organization kills creativity and what you can do about it.
Here’s a rather helpful -- and sure, depending on your work situation, maybe a bit depressing -- list from the folks at ITBusinessEdge on four ways of thinking that kill creativity in an organization.
1. Efficiency and scale rule the day. Most of us (and the institutions in which we work) are heirs of the industrial era -- this includes churches. The bigger they are, the more people, the more departments, the more nuts and bolts and turning wheels there are. Efficiency tends to dominate so chaos doesn’t. Except that a lot of innovative ideas emerge from chaos. Here’s an idea: Why not do both? Sometimes we need to prune institutions to create opportunities for new life and new ventures -- a kind of Gardening 101 for Christian institutions. No matter how large or bureaucratic your organization is, think about places where you can trim ministries and ventures that no longer give life, so you can re-invest resources and re-direct people toward ones that are.
2. All things must be certain. The cliche about death and taxes need not apply to your institution, particularly if it’s chock full of Christians who worship a triune God. The Holy Spirit blows fresh life into the church, a community in which failure, weakness and surprise (no one saw Pentecost coming) are defining marks that the church is Christ’s body on display for the world. History matters, but God beckons humanity into a future where all things are being made new. A distinctively Christian institution ought to reflect that.
3. Innovation always has to be revolutionary to be effective. I once heard Roger Martin say that he cringes when business folk throw around the idiom “thinking outside the box.” “What if the box is sitting on the edge of a cliff,” he said. Good point. Our current cultural milieu makes it easy for us to associate innovation as unanchored, free thinking creativity. But think about the creative arts: the best writers are the best readers, the best musicians learned playing the music of others; the best painters know a Rembrandt from a Renior and can probably make a decent imitation of both. Why would we think creativity in our institutions would be any different?
4. Innovation and execution can’t exist together. Scott Belsky -- author of “Making Ideas Happen” -- would disagree. His book is about how to move from idea to execution to completion of any creative, team-based project. Read it; it helps, I promise, especially if you’re like me and you generate 10 ideas for every one you actually have time to pull off. Besides, as a people charged to be the hands and feet of Christ, Christians need to keep in tension that vision of the kingdom come and the reality that they're called to participate in its ushering in. Think big, catch a glimpse of how new creation might be showing up in your community -- and then get busy.
Benjamin McNutt is the editor of Call & Response. You can follow him on Twitter @benjaminmcnutt.