Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret

Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret

January 11, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

Innovations_Dirty_Little_Secret_smlIn my experience, there are few writers on anything related to leadership who demonstrate the wisdom and insight of Larry Osborne. I read anything he writes, and I almost always benefit. Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is no exception. While his focus is on innovation, in many ways it’s a book about leadership from a fresh angle.

His description of the difference between mission and vision was especially helpful. Those words are constants in almost any tome on leadership, but in my experience, I have found them to often be misused, confused, or plain unhelpful because of a lack of understanding about each of them.

Simply put, mission is why your organization exists—why are you here? What are you supposed to accomplish? Vision is what that looks like in practice. Lots of churches have “make disciples” as their mission, but it can look markedly different in different places (think Pentecostal vs. Baptist). Why does it matter if you get them right or not? Let me quote Osborne:

“If you have a clear mission statement but no corresponding detailed vision of what success looks like or how you plan to get there, the result will almost always be a confused and splintered team. Each member will seek to fulfill the mission in their own way, taking the path that seems best to them. If you have a detailed vision without a clear mission statement, the result will almost always be lots of activity without any means of determining whether it’s accomplishing anything. At the end of the day, there will be no way to measure success.”

In the same vein, his insights into how vision develops were helpful. Much of the literature out there seems to imply that “vision” comes out of the womb fully formed. My observation is that it is more often discovered over time than decided in a day. Over time we discover the things God has put in the depths of our hearts; we also learn what is truly ours and what sounds good but is really something we adopted from someone else. Osborne puts it like this:

“Unlike mission, vision often starts out fuzzy. It’s a lot like an old-fashioned Polaroid picture; it becomes sharper and more focused over time. It can’t be rushed. But if allowed to fully develop, it provides a clear and detailed description of what success looks like.”  

The second thing I’ll mention is the wisdom and humility implicit in recognizing that innovation often comes from people or organizations outside our own tribe. It is so easy to fall into thinking that if it doesn’t originate with “us,” it isn’t legitimate. I’ve certainly fallen into that at times. But what is old news for others may be revolutionary for us; we need to have enough humility to learn from others—especially those groups we secretly feel condescending toward. As Osborne puts it:

“The fact is, most of the new paradigms, programs, and innovations that will be crucial to our success in the future are already being tried somewhere.”

One of the difficult things about this book was how many great nuggets there were. Often I would find myself stopping and chewing on something that was almost a side comment but that really struck me.

I’m eager to hear what you thought of the book and what struck you. I’m also interested in hearing what you’ve learned about innovation that might not have been mentioned in the book.

-Dave Frederick

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