"If you want to understand why some companies lack innovative ideas, think about the man who can't find his car keys. His friend asks him why he's looking for the keys under the lamppost when he dropped them over on the lawn. 'Because there's more light over here,' the man explains.

"For too many companies, that describes their search for new ideas, and it pretty much guarantees they won't go anywhere fast. While a company can marginally improve what it's already good at, it misses out on the breakthroughs - those eureka moments when a new concept pops up, as if from nowhere, and changes a company's fortunes forever.

"Those ideas, however, don't really come from nowhere. Instead they are typically at the edge of a company's radar screen, and sometimes a bit beyond.....In other words, they have to look away from the lamppost." (In Search of Innovation, John Bessant, Katherin Moslein,and Bettina von Stamm, The Wall Street Journal, Monday, June 22, 2009, R4.

I could not agree more with this observation. I find that ministry organizations want to improve - but they are in large part so cautious of change or major new ideas that they tweak endlessly and see very little change in outcomes. Those that look away from the lamppost and are willing to take major risks in a new way of thinking, are the ones that see the major rewards.

The organization I lead, ReachGlobal - the international mission of the EFCA has been seeking to look away from the lamppost in order to seek quantum leaps in our effectiveness. It has been a stretch for some but it is paying off. Some examples....

Instead of focusing our efforts on only partnering with other Free Church movements globally (the old way) or planting new Free church movements (the old way) we now will partner with anyone who has the same theology, ethos and missional goals regardless of the denominational name over the door (the new way). That is a big shift and it has opened up numerous partnerships for us with groups that are healthy, indigenous, self supporting, interdependent and reproducing (the new goal).

We are no longer focused on what we can do by ourselves as missionaries (the old way) but rather on how we can come alongside other healthy movements and leaders, find out what their needs are and serve their needs in order for them to be as effective as possible in the planting of healthy churches (the new way). We are no longer in the drivers seat in many ways (the old way) but are now the servants of those we serve (the new way).

All of that creates another seismic shift. Because we are serving others, we do not control anything, own anything or count anything as "ours." That was the old way. The new way is giving ministry away freely, developing, empowering and releasing others in meaningful, missional ministry without needing to control, to count or own. Interestingly enough, because we are no longer perceived to be about control, ownership or counting as ours, indigenous partners are knocking on our door asking if we can work with them. They know that we will serve them but not control them.

Rather than relying on our expertise as American missionaries (the old way), we are actively inviting into our leadership ranks nationals from other cultures and nations (the new way) who bring with them expertise, knowledge, ideas and insights we could never have imagined. Sure, it rocks the boat and causes waves at times but we are far better off for taking the risk and allowing them to take us out of our comfort zone.

The point is that tweaking our ministries by looking under the lamppost will not give us the innovative ideas and leverage points that are possible if we will take larger risks for greater rewards. But to do that you have to be looking away from the lamppost not under it. Where are you looking?

Helping individuals and organizations go to the next level of effectiveness. TJ Addington can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.
  • Jan 07, 2014
  • Category: News
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