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Posted by on Sep 26, 2011 in Blog |

How We Approach Change

How We Approach Change

During the Internet Ministries Innovation Lab at Leadership Network last week, Vince Marotte made a presentation on the trends of internet ministries and the model they use at Gateway Church in Austin, TX.  During his presentation, he showed the peculiar picture of John Fitch’s first steamboat and asked, “Why was this the first model of a steamboat?”

Looking at the picture, the answer should be pretty obvious: John took the prevailing model of ‘boat’ and just crammed the new “steam technology” right in the middle of it.

That got me to thinking about how we often approach change and innovation in our lives, organizations, and churches.  Rather than start from a blank slate and explore all the possibilities before us, we have a tendency to start with our current model of doing things and try to fit the new into the old.  We read a book, attend a conference, or have an inspiring conversation with a thought leader, and return home to try and press the new learnings into old systems and structures.

Why?

Part of this is due to the realities of models, particularly the fact that the hardest model to change is one that is working.  It doesn’t matter how poorly things may be going in life or how dismally an organization is performing, if the status quo is ‘working’ at all, we generally stick with it.  Its familiar.  Its comfortable.  It keeps the peace.  Its safe.  Its risk-free (at least we perceive it to be so).

In writing that last paragraph, I’m reminded of a quote by Keith Johnstone:

“There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no.’ Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”

Which is your reward?

Back to the topic at hand…I believe another key factor that impacts our approach to change and innovation is our reluctance to take the time and expend the energy necessary for purposeful, intentional change.  Most individuals and organizations find it difficult to have the critical conversations that allow for new ideas and innovations to emerge.  My experience tells me it isn’t because the desire is lacking.  Rather, either leaders lack the knowledge of processes that will fit their needs, or they don’t understand the ROI on the time invested in proactive planning.

What about you?  How do you approach change and innovation?  Do you start with your current model, or do you give yourself the freedom to begin with a blank slate?  What ongoing processes do you keep in place to ensure that your church or organization stays fresh and ahead of the curve?  How much time do you invest in “heads up” thinking and planning?

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