Isn’t About Time You You Made the Ordinary Extraordinary?

Anyone can dream…

But Disney’s Imagineers dream and do.

Since 1952, the Walt Disney Imagineers have been turning impossible dreams and schemes into magical rides, shows, and attractions for Disney theme parks around the world.

What is their magic?

It’s all about making the ordinary extraordinary.

Take this building in Hollywood Studios, for instance…


It’s a beautiful building, right?

Not really…


It’s really just a facade – an excellent example of how the Imagineers use a combination of imagination and engineering to make magic come to life at Disney.

Disney’s Imagineers are a highly creative group – one that isn’t slowed down by the impossible.

There are hundreds of stories about Imagineers who didn’t realize what they were capable of until they started doing it. They don’t want your fear of taking the first step get the best of you – they want to let your project get the best of you.

Imagineers try and fail and keep trying until they make magic.

Isn’t it time you got started?

Go ahead. Tackle that creative challenge head-on. Allow the spark of an idea to ignite your creativity and passion. Make the ordinary, extraordinary.

Don’t just sit there – dream and do!


Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout


The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Living Out the Movie “Groundhog Day” at Your Church?

Groundhog Day is a celebration of an old tradition – Candlemas Day – where clergy blessed and distributed candles for winter, representing how long and cold winter would be.

Groundhog Day is also a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray that popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over.

Many churches find themselves in their own version of groundhog day, living out a dream and vision that was once relevant, but now is long in the past. Unwilling or unable to face reality, they are simply repeating the past over and over.

Do you feel like you’re going down an endless road, with the same scenery being repeated over and over?


Church leaders who find themselves in this situation have an excellent resource in Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code by Sam Chand.

“Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” offers a practical resource for discovering the deficits in an existing church’s culture and includes steps needed to assess, correct, and change culture from lackluster to vibrant and inspirational so that it truly meets the needs of the congregation.Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

The book includes descriptions of five categories of church culture (Inspiring, Accepting, Stagnant, Discouraging, and Toxic) as well as diagnostic methods (including a free online assessment) that church leaders can use to identify the particular strengths and needs of their church.

One particularly useful section of the book deals with the seven keys of CULTURE:

  • Control – it isn’t a dirty word; delegating responsibility and maintaining accountability are essential for any organization to be effective
  • Understanding – every person on a team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, his or her role, the gifts of the team members, and the way the team functions
  • Leadership – healthy teams are pipelines of leadership development, consistently discovering, developing, and deploying leaders
  • Trust – mutual trust up, down, and across the organizational structure is the glue that makes everything good possible
  • Unafraid – healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world
  • Responsive – teams with healthy cultures are alert to open doors and ones that are closing; they have a sensitive spirit and a workable system to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks
  • Execution – executing decisions is a function of clarity, roles and responsibilities, and a system of accountability

Understanding your church’s culture is not an easy task. Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code is a very helpful resource for the leader who wants to delve below the surface of church as usual and lead it to greater impact.

Starting at the End


inspired by and adapted from The Imagineering Workout, by the Disney Imagineers

– Peter Steinman, General Counsel, Disney Imagineering

Working from the back-end is finding the lessons that you don’t want to learn in the midst of your project. 

This practice of back-end visualization is essential to almost everything we do and can be adapted to any project. 

Next, consider how you could minimize these challenges so they do not negatively impact the project, and take necessary preventive action. This might be done through a contract, through people you might hire, materials you might use, or by adjusting a schedule.

Imagine all the reasonably possible outcomes of the project, select one that best meets your needs, think through all things that could delay, detour, or diminish your outcome and write them down.

Anticipating the possible outcomes of everyday decisions before you make them helps you avoid calamities, not to mention inconveniences.


It takes a special kind of vision to see the end before the beginning.

“Of course he did,” recounted his wife Lillian. “If he had not seen it then, we would not be seeing it now.”

After being around Disney cast members for several days this week, the story of people lamenting the fact that Walt died before Walt Disney World was built was recounted several times.

Being onsite at a Disney theme park always heightens my awareness of Walt Disney and the vision he had to bring so much to our world – groundbreaking animation, the concept of the storyboard creative process, live action/animation  movies, and especially the concept of theme parks.

January 31, 2016

A celebration of National Backwards Day

It’s Time to Go Out and Play

The Recess Test – How Playful is Your Organization?


  • Is it common to hear laughter coming from your employees?
  • Does the laughter stop or diminish when management is around?
  • Is the workplace humor good-natured constructive ribbing rather than destructive sarcastic criticism?
  • Does your boss usually have an optimistic and happy attitude?
  • When something gets screwed up, can team members step back and laugh at their own mistake?
  • Do you have fun celebrations on a regular basis?
  • Is the physical workplace conducive to fun?
  • Do you engage your customers (internal or external) in your fun environment?

If you answered “no” to two or more of these questions, your organization may be suffering from terminal “sobriety flippancy” (abstinence from humor).

At least that’s the point authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson make in their book Innovate the Pixar Way. In the book, Capodagli and Jackson reveal how Pixar has reawakened the innovative spirit at Walt Disney. In stark contrast to the crippling short-term mentality that eats away at many organizations today, the Pixar organization honors the legacy of Walt Disney by refusing to take shortcuts, by fulfilling the promise of bringing the story to life in each and every movie they make, and by championing a simple formula espoused by the chief creative officer of Pixar and  Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter: “Quality is the best business plan of all.”

Throughout the book, the authors encourage you to think like a child. They have shown Pixar to be a “playground” that will inspire you to:

  • Dream like a child.
  • Believe in your playmates
  • Dare to jump in the water and make waves
  • Do unleash your childhood potential

Do you have the capacity to do that? If not, here are seven actions the authors recommend you take to fire up your workplace:

  1. Create a unique playground – Pixar’s main building is designed for natural interaction of all team members and includes the freedom to decorate your own space; if you want to be innovative, make your workspace a home-away-from-home.
  2. Think play – each month, assign a “recess team” to dream up a fun experience.
  3. Allow personalized work space – encourage employees to demonstrate their creativity by decorating their individual offices, cubicles, desks, or work areas.
  4. Celebrate – make time for celebrations to note life’s milestones: a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation.
  5. Grant employees permission to be recognized for their work by “outsiders” – encourage employees to join professional associations in which they have an opportunity to display their work, gain peer and industry recognition for their accomplishments, and most of all, have fun.
  6. Be a role model for mutual respect and trust – the level of mutual respect and trust in your workplace is directly proportional to worker’s attitudes regarding play and fun.
  7. Laugh at yourself – leaders who demonstrate self-deprecating humor set the tone for workplace play and fun.

Fun and play are imperative to strengthening one’s imagination, creative abilities, and most of all, innovative thinking.

Isn’t it time to ring the bell for recess at your place?


Inspired by Innovate the Pixar Way, by  Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson



Habits of Successful Innovators

Successful innovators have ways of looking at the world that throw new opportunities into sharp relief. They have developed, often by accident, a set of perceptual habits that allow them to pierce the fog of “what is” and catch a glimpse of “what could be.”

– Gary Hamel. What Matters Now

Successful innovators pay attention to four things that usually go unexamined:

  • Unchallenged Orthodoxies – to be an innovator you have to challenge the beliefs that everyone else takes for granted – the long-held assumptions that blind organizational leaders to new ways of doing business. Within any organization, mental models tend to converge over time. As the years pass, the intellectual gene pool becomes a stagnant pond. Success accelerates this process: effective strategies get translated into operational policies which spawn best practices which harden into habits. Innovators, being natural contrarians, are not afraid to challenge long-held practices and beliefs.
  • Underappreciated Trends – innovators pay close attention to emerging trends, to the embryonic discontinuities that have the potential to invigorate old organizations and create new ones. Innovators are on the constant look-out for emerging discontinuities – in technology, regulations, lifestyle, values, and geopolitics – that could be harnessed to overturn old organizational structures. What this requires is not so much a crystal ball as a wide-angle lens. Innovators learn in places that their competitors aren’t even looking.
  • Underleveraged Competencies and Assets – every organization is a bundle of skills and assets. Typically these things are embedded in legacy structures, but if repurposed, they can often serve as platforms for innovation and growth. Innovation gets stymied when an organization defines itself by what it does rather than by what it knows or owns – when its self-conception is built around products and technologies rather than around core competencies and strategic assets. To innovate, you need to see your organization and the world around it as  portfolio of skills and assets that can be endlessly recombined into new products and organizations.
  • Unarticulated Needs -In order to amaze customer with the unexpected, you must first uncover unspoken needs.  Customers, like the rest of us, are prisoners of the familiar. Innovators are good at spotting the inconveniences and encumbrances the customers have come to take for granted, and that organizational veterans mostly ignore. The innovator’s goal is to amaze customers with something they could never have imagined, but having once experienced it, can’t imagine living without.

Innovators who are successful again and again have developed perceptual routines that help them see beyond the ordinary. It’s time for you as a leader to help your team view the world around them with fresh eyes.

That would include leaders in ChurchWorld.

inspired by and adapted from What Matters Now, by Gary Hamel

What Matters Now

The Top 15 Books of 2015 – from My Perspective

Each year during the last week of the year, the posts here at 27gen usually focus on the topic of books. My last post of the year features my top books of the year. Here’s the deal:

It’s a very subjective list – okay? The only thing all the titles have in common is that they were published in 2015. That, and each book spoke to me in a meaningful way.

As mentioned in a previous post, I read a lot – but usually focus in four areas. Naturally, my Top 15 choices are going to come from these areas.

There are some really good books out there that I am aware of that did not make it into my reading cycle, so they aren’t included. It doesn’t mean they weren’t great books, just that I didn’t read them.

Here, then, are my Top 15 Books of 2015, in no particular order.

The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence, Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, Cheryl Bachelder

Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses, “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration – Lessons from The Second City, Kelly Leonard

Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action, Ben Decker

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal

Reframe: Shift the Way Your Work, Innovate, and Think, Mona Patel

X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis

Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio, Don Hahn

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough

Rising Strong, Brené Brown

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, Kevin Ashton

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, Bernard Roth

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar

Brand Flip: Why Customers Now Run Companies and How to Profit From It, Marty Neumeier

Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send, J.D. Greear

Today we close out 2015, tomorrow ushers in 2016, and whole new worlds are waiting to be discovered – in books.


Reading 101… or How I Read Over 5 Books a Week During 2015

One of my greatest passions is reading. I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book summary in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2015 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.

Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches.

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction.

Add those 4 categories all together, and in 2015 I have read 277 books. 


photo courtesy ginnerobot

Here’s how I did it – and, of course it starts with a book!

How to Read a Book

Literally – that’s the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler.  The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don’t need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler’s 4 levels of reading:

  • Elementary Reading – What does the book say?
  • Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
  • Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
  • Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?

Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2016, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’ve got three books coming via Amazon on January 2nd, and another couple on reserve at the library.