Tuesday, June 16, 2009


My wife and I were watching TV. A commercial for Post Shredded Wheat came on. I am not an avid commercial watcher, but every now and then an advertisement, or its tag line, gets my attention. This was the case with this product. The tagline: “We at Post put the no InNOvation!”

I laughed out loud. What a great line! They were attempting to communicate they were a company of tradition, wholesomeness and they could be counted on in these unstable times. At least I think that was it. I really got pretty intrigued by the line.

I commented to my wife how many churches actually have that as their mission statement. Not written out, but in their actions such is the case. The question is why? Why do many churches and church leaders pride themselves in InNOvation? Here are a few thoughts:

We confuse innovation with creativity: Innovation and creativity is not the same thing, although many use them interchangeably. Truth is God is the only genuinely creative being. It was God and God alone who spoke, “Let there be…” and there was. He created something out of nothing. We resist inNOvation simply because we believe we are not creative people. We may not be creative, but this does not mean we can’t be innovative.
Innovation is seen as compromise: For some innovation is connected with change and change is viewed as compromise. How change and compromise got put in the same basket I am not real sure, but for many it has. Is changing the oil in our vehicles compromising the vehicles integrity? Or is it extending its effectiveness?
Innovation is costly: What does it cost? Time? Energy? Frustration? Relationships? Possibly. But as in most things the cost of InNOvation must be weighed against innovation.

I believe churches and people can learn to be innovative. Wikipedia states, “A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully.” Understanding this will hopefully motivate us to be innovative people and churches. Meaning, we can take existing ideas and apply them to our context. Doing this can move us from inNOvation to INnovation. That is, move us from saying “no” to ideas to working “in” ideas we uncover.

I offer the following to develop an INnovation mindset:

Increase your “IA” (idea awareness) quotient: Look in a variety of places for ideas. Do not limit yourselves to what other churches do, but see what businesses are finding effective. An example would be Craig’s list. Many churches are finding this to be an effective tool.
Know your context: It is difficult to apply ideas to your situation if you don’t understand it. Not every idea is for you, nor is it adaptable to your situation.
Sit in a different chair: When I sit in a different chair I gain a different perspective of the room in which it is placed. View ideas from a variety of perspectives. Look at them from various angles. An idea that doesn’t look good from the top may look completely different from the side.
Try stuff: We get too tentative when it comes to trying an idea. An idea that doesn’t work is not an indication of our failure, just that the idea was not the best, or didn’t fit our situation. Melinda Gates when asked about ideas her and husband Bill’s Foundation comes up with said, “We will get out there and try something. If it doesn’t work, we will try something else. And we will keep trying until we find something that works” (Fast Company, June 09, p62).

What is it for you? InNOvation or INnovation? The choice is yours.

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