Tag Archive - innovation

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The Rules of Innovation

One of the best ways to learn as a church leader is to get outside of the “church-world” and learn from other industries. That kind of exposure challenges your thinking in new ways. It exposes you to different problems that you aren’t facing as well as new solutions that churches aren’t even thinking about.

The other day I had the opportunity to learn from a friend of mine who works in a different industry than the church I serve in. He works for a fast growing, global, world class company that’s known for innovation.

As I listened to him describe his company’s approach to innovation there we some core concepts that were counter intuitive that really stood out to me.

First…Master the Standard

You don’t have the right to innovate until you’ve mastered the existing standard, because otherwise you degrade the standard. In order to innovate you have to begin with a baseline standard. That starting point allows you to begin to improve things, be creative and innovate. In a church you may have a standard way of doing things like checking in kids, new families, or following up on guests. You may have standard expectations in regard to the quality of the worship band, lighting, sound or even the percentage of attenders in a group or engaged in a volunteer team. Innovation in those instances would mean mastering the standard, whatever that is, and then trying new things to improve upon it.

Hyper Standardization AND a Free for All are both Bad for Innovation

Both over standardization and a wild west, no holds barred approach squelch innovation. Innovation for the sake of innovation is a waste of time. There’s plenty of opportunity to innovate against a problem. The best innovations are always for the sake of guests or customers and make things simpler not more complicated.

How it Really Works: 

1. Communicate BEFORE you Innovate
Before you start improving upon the standard always communicate up to your direct report. No boss likes to be surprised and you may find that your boss has different priorities for your time than what you want to innovate.

2. Define the Period of Time that you’ll Run the Test
Be clear about how long you’re going to test this new innovative idea as well as the potential scope of impact.

3. Evaluate Real Results
Conduct an autopsy on the test you ran. What were the net results? Look at both the data and the anecdotes. If it’s not significantly better than the standard, then ditch the idea…it’s not worth chasing.

4. Preserve what Worked and Pivot away from what didn’t
Simply put, have the courage to turn away from ideas that didn’t work, even if you liked the idea, even if it was a good idea. If it didn’t work, then don’t waste your time working it. Preserve what did work significantly better and either work to implement it everywhere or continue to improve upon it.


Posted in Leadership

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How Success can be your Worst Enemy

When faced with the choice between failure and success I’d take success every time. You would too. It’s way more fun to win than to lose. But what if I told you that your past and current success may be the very thing holding you back from future success?

Success Tempts us to Settle

Success tempts us to settle instead of spread. We cling to the success that we have achieved with both hands and fail to grasp new opportunities.

Success makes you Conservative

The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success. Current success turns into past success and the past has a nostalgia that the future never will.

Success can Hide Motive

It’s easy to hide our motivation and heart in the apparent external success of the churches we’re building. I’m not saying every church leader has poor motives, far from it! But it’s easy to ignore motive when you’re experiencing success.

Success Creates an Avoidance of Risk

Success can keep us from taking risk. It’s easy to trust God and take big risk when you don’t have much to trust to God. But when you’ve found success and there is perceivably more on the line it’s not as easy.

Success brings Resources

Too many resources can be an innovation killer. A lack of resources teaches resourcefulness and tenacity. God can guide by what He withholds just as easily as by what He gives.

Success keeps you from Innovation

If you haven’t failed in a while, you’re probably playing it too safe and too small.

Is there Success without Succession?

Is what started with you going to end with you? You’ve got to move from “it can’t happen without you,” to “it happens with you,” to “it grows without you.”


Posted in Leadership

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Increasing Innovation at your Church through Quick Feedback Loops

Great organizations and great churches adopt a pattern of constant change. They intentionally organize themselves to allow for nimbleness, flexibility, and responsiveness. They tweak, tinker, build on islands of strength and innovate. They quickly turn vision into reality allowing them to get to the next iteration faster.

Making the right change, however hinges on having the right information. I’m not simply talking about having the right metrics. It requires the Sr. Leadership Team to actually know what’s working, what’s not, and why. This kind of information requires creating quick feedback loops, from the right sources, so Sr. Leaders have access to front line information so better decisions can be made faster.

Here are a couple of examples of what that looks like in church-world where I live.

Weekend Evaluation Meetings: First thing each Monday morning Campus Teams run a quick 15 minute conversation about what worked, what was wrong, what was confusing or what was missing. They solve what they can on their own and communicate core issues that need to go back to the Central Service Team. By Monday afternoon I have a pretty firm grasp on what happened on each campus.

Campus Pastor Gatherings: Monthly lunches with Campus Pastors with no agenda but to stay connected to the Sr. Leadership Team allow for casual unfiltered conversation that consistently leads to identifying islands of strength and opportunities for improvement.

Millennial Coaching Group: A monthly leadership-coaching group with millennial lay leaders allows for fresh input, interesting new insights, and core assumptions to be challenged.

Staff Lunches: Annually Sr. Leaders have lunch with Staff from each individual Campus at a time. It’s a relaxed no holds barred, ask anything environment. It gives front line employees access to Sr. Leaders and allows those same Sr. Leaders to know first hand what challenges the team is facing, what their concerns are, and what their needs are.

Campus Score Cards: When Central Service Staff attend a campus on the weekend they fill out a simple online survey about their experience that weekend. Those results go right to the Campus Pastor on Monday for direct feedback from fresh eyes.


Posted in Leadership

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Why Crisis is a Leaders Best Friend

If you lead in a church long enough eventually you’re going to face a crisis. It may be a staff crisis, a financial crisis, a moral crisis, a personal crisis or even a crisis of faith. One of the differences between good church leaders and great church leaders is that while good church leaders manage through crisis a great church leader never lets a serious crisis go to waste.

1. Crisis is an Opportunity for Change

Crisis is neither good or bad, it’s simply an opportunity to change things. In fact the best leaders know how to create healthy crisis in order to build a sense of urgency within people and the organization that can lead to change and forward movement.

2. Crisis Defines Reality

Crisis is a barometer. It helps you understand where you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are as a church, a staff team, and a leader. But you have to be willing to see it. You have to be willing to avoid deflecting blame, criticism, and begin to listen and take personal responsibility. Crisis will show you what you’re really made of, and it will show you what your team and the organization you lead is made of as well.

3. Crisis puts a Spotlight on Leadership

When crisis hits, all eyes are on the leader. Crisis is an incredible opportunity for leaders to build trust by delivering results and following through.

4. Crisis is a Catalyst for Innovation

Crisis creates opportunity for innovation. New ideas thrive in crisis. Problem solvers come alive when pressure is applied and they’re faced with daunting circumstances.

5. Crisis Infuses Courage

Comfort is the enemy of courage. When things are going smoothly and everything is routine it takes very little courage (faith) to lead a church. Crisis jump starts the kind of courage it takes to lead a church.

Change doesn’t happen in a church that’s stuck simply because the leader says things must change. A crisis, or a perceived crisis, has to be great enough to provide enough pressure that will help everyone be ready for change.


Posted in Leadership

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Why Good Leaders Shoot Down New Ideas

Ever had an idea that your boss shot down? Sure you have, I have too.

Remember when you were a young leader full of fresh new ideas and you were pretty sure that your idea was the best idea in the room? Remember how frustrated you were with your boss when they shot down that great idea? You were so sure that they just didn’t get it and they were passing on the next big thing.

There are countless examples of organizations and churches that fall in love with past success, become risk adverse over time, and refuse to change. But did you know that the most successful organizations and churches on the planet are just as adept at shooting down new ideas? Here’s why…

1. You Innovate for Impact

Many young leaders get enamored with new ideas. They want to challenge the status quo and do new things for the sake of doing new things; often times without fully understanding why current things are being done the way they are. What many young leaders miss out on is the goal of innovation. The goal of innovation is impact.

2. Is the Innovation a Significant Upgrade?

It’s not enough for the innovation to simply be better. The idea must lead to a significant upgrade, not just a tweak or subtle improvement. If a church or organization is going to invest the leadership capital, human capital, emotional energy, time, money, and so on it needs to be worth it. The return must significantly outweigh the investment.

3. Standardization is Innovations Best Friend

It may sound counter-intuitive but without standardization you can’t have impact. One little innovation in isolation can’t have much impact. But when there are standardized systems and process in place to preserve the culture, one innovation has the potential to be delivered throughout the entire organization or church and carry with it significant impact.


Posted in Leadership
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