What Account Do I Draw From to Pay Attention?

Over the weekend our home was filled with the delightful experience of two grandchildren experiencing Christmas in January.

My son and his two children came down with the flu one right after the other the day before they were to come to our house in December for Christmas. Luckily, our daughter-in-law didn’t get sick – she was just Dr. Mom for the whole gang!

Anyway, we postponed Christmas till last Saturday. I must admit, it was quite fun to have the tree up all throughout the month, and to turn on the lights and crank up the Christmas music again.

To our grandchildren, though, it must have been a little strange. From the time they came running in the door, throughout all of the fun, to the goodbyes, they were a little stymied about the whole process – and I began to see all over again what it means to be curious.

You can, and must, regain your lost curiosity. Learn to see again with eyes undimmed by precedent.   – Gary Hamel

I was reminded of my grandchildren’s curiosity was brought sharply into focus when I recently read the following:

In childhood, then, attention is brightened by two features: children’s neophilia (love of new things) and the fact that, as young people, they simply haven’t seen it all before.   – Alexandra Horowitz

On LookingAlexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary – to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle puts it, “the observation of trifles.”

On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. She also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.

Here’s an illustrative example as Horowitz walks around the block with a naturalist who informs her she has missed seeing three different groups of birds in the last few minutes of their walk:

How had I missed these birds? It had to do with how I was looking. Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that perception. In a sense, perception is a lost cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process of the world “out there.” Attention is the more charismatic member, packaged and sold more effectively, but expectation is also a crucial part of what we see. Together they allow us to be functional, reducing the sensory chaos of the world into unbothersome and understandable units.

Attention and expectation also work together to oblige our missing things right in front of our noses. There is a term for this: inattentional blindness. It is the missing of the literal elephant in the room, despite the overturned armchairs and plate-sized footprints. 

Horowitz’s On Looking should be required reading for ChurchWorld leaders. How often do we fly past the fascinating world around us? A world, mind you, that we have been called to serve.

How can we serve a neighborhood or community or a block of our subdivision if we haven’t paid attention to it?

To a surprising extent, time spent going to and fro – walking down the street, traveling to work, heading to the store or a child’s school – is unremembered. It is forgotten not because nothing of interest happens. It is forgotten because we failed to pay attention to the journey to begin with.

Will Mancini, Founder and Team Leader of Auxano, the vision clarity-consulting group I am a part of, has written eloquently on the subject. In his book Church Unique, he introduces a principle called “The Kingdom Concept” with references to artist Andrew Wyeth:

 Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly, I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.   – Andrew Wyeth

Mancini goes on:

What’s particularly interesting about Wyeth is that in more than fifty years of painting he never tried to capture a landscape outside of the immediate surroundings of his home in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania, and his family’s summerhouse in Maine.

 Ponder this starling fact for a moment: This man has touched the world with an ability he never exercised outside of his own backyard! His creative mind and brilliant skill, turned loose for ten hours a day and for years on end, can be forever satisfied by radically full attention to the familiar.

 It seemed to me that he was doing something inherently visionary, and critically important for ministry leaders to do as well: his ability to observe his immediate surrounding enables him to discover and express meaning in life that other miss.

The role of today’s leaders is to clarify what is already there and help people perceive what has gone unnoticed.  These are the skills needed to lead a Church Unique.

Questions to Ponder

  • How do you observe the all-too-familiar in order to discover new meaning and discern the activity of God that others miss?
  • What do you look for?
  • How can you learn to scrutinize the obvious?
  • What does it mean to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary?
  • How can you lead your church to find exponential impact through a simple and local focus?

A good place to start is simply looking…

When It’s Everybody’s Job, It’s Usually Nobody’s Job

Recently my family went to one of our favorite “special occasion” restaurants because the food, atmosphere, and service are always enjoyable.

It was around 7 PM on a Friday night, and with no reservations, we expected to wait. However, by the time I had parked the car after dropping them off, they were seated and waiting for me.

This particular restaurant employees a team wait-staff method: after being seated by the hostess, no less than 4 staff served us over the course of the evening. Taking our drink order, delivering the menus, reciting the special of the night, refilling drinks, delivering our food, checking on us while we were eating, boxing up leftovers, delivering dessert, and the final bill – a different face almost every time.

The problem was, it didn’t work that night.

For the first time ever at this particular restaurant, we had a service fail:

  • seated about five minutes before anyone stopped by
  • waited almost ten minutes before our order was taken
  • drink refills were slow
  • the biggest fail of all – my meal was delivered by itself, and it was 7 minutes (timed) before the next thing happened

After waiting (awkwardly), my wife and daughter encouraged me to begin eating – but I did not. Instead, a waiter delivered a new meal to me, along with the rest of the table, and said something silly like “Congratulations, you’re the 100th person tonight and you get a free meal to take home.” At which point he collected my original meal, boxed it up and brought it back.

From that point on, service was “spot on.” Drinks were about half gone before refills were brought. The wait staff checked at least three times during the meal to see if everything was okay. The bill was delivered and returned promptly.

What happened? I’m not sure, but I think the front of house manager came by just as my meal was being delivered, and when he returned a few minutes later, it was still there – all by itself.

At that point, he “owned” the problem, and set in motion the corrective actions. My takeaway from this:

When it’s everybody’s job, it’s usually nobody’s job

Think about your organization. Do you have teams that have specific responsibilities but not individual accountability? Does Fred bypass something that needs attention because he knows Mary will take care of it?

The team may be responsible, but it’s the individual that owns the solution.

Favorite Books of 2014, Part 2

Yesterday I introduced my first 7 books on my favorite books published in 2014; you can read it here.

Here are the remaining 7 books:

Curious about these books? Read on!

InnovatorsThe Innovators, Walter Isaacson

The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.

What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

AMoreBeautifulQuestionA More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger

In this groundbreaking book, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger shows that one of the most powerful forces for igniting change in business and in our daily lives is a simple, under-appreciated tool—one that has been available to us since childhood. Questioning—deeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”—can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities. So why are we often reluctant to ask “Why?”

Berger shows, the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking—and finding powerful answers.

WhosTheLeaderofTheClubWho’s the Leader of the Club, Jim Korkis

Acclaimed Disney expert Jim Korkis tells the stories of what Walt did right, what he did wrong, and how you can follow in his footsteps. Drawing upon his unparalleled knowledge of the Disney Company and its legacy, Korkis distills the essence of Walt Disney’s leadership principles into an exciting narrative of popular history and self-help.

You’ll read not just about what Walt did but why he did it, and how you can apply the lessons to your own life or your own enterprise.

DoodleRevolutionThe Doodle Revolution, Sunni Brown

What did Einstein, JFK, Edison, Marie Curie, and Henry Ford have in common? They were all inveterate doodlers. These powerhouse minds knew instinctively that doodling is deep thinking in disguise—a simple, accessible, and dynamite tool for innovating and solving even the stickiest problems.

Sunni Brown’s mission is to bring the power of the Doodle to the rest of us. She leads the Revolution defying all those parents, teachers, and bosses who say Stop doodling! Get serious! Grow up! She overturns misinformation about doodling, demystifies visual thinking, and shows us the power of applying our innate visual literacy.

Doodling has led to countless breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, architecture, literature, and art. And as Brown proves in this inspiring, empowering book, it can help all of us think and do better in whatever fields we pursue.

With passion and wit, Brown guides you from the basic Doodle all the way to the formidable “Infodoodle”—the tight integration of words, numbers, images, and shapes that craft and display higher-level thinking.

MythsofCreativityThe Myths of Creativity, David Burkas

We tend to think of creativity in terms reminiscent of the ancient muses: divinely-inspired, unpredictable, and bestowed upon a lucky few. But when our jobs challenge us to be creative on demand, we must develop novel, useful ideas that will keep our organizations competitive. The Myths of Creativitydemystifies the processes that drive innovation. Based on the latest research into how creative individuals and firms succeed, David Burkus highlights the mistaken ideas that hold us back and shows us how anyone can embrace a practical approach, grounded in reality, to finding the best new ideas, projects, processes, and programs.

LifeAnimatedLife, Animated, Ron Suskind

Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of color. A fantasy? A nightmare? This is the real-life story of Owen Suskind, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia. An autistic boy who couldn’t speak for years, Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies, turned them into a language to express love and loss, kinship, brotherhood.The family was forced to become animated characters, communicating with him in Disney dialogue and song; until they all emerge, together, revealing how, in darkness, we all literally need stories to survive.

HowStarWarsConqueredUniverseHow Star Wars Conquered the Universe

In How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise’s death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Providing portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas’s idea into a legend, Taylor also jousts with modern-day Jedi, tinkers with droid builders, and gets inside Boba Fett’s helmet, all to find out how Star Wars has attracted and inspired so many fans for so long.

Since the first film’s release in 1977, Taylor shows, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics in far-flung countries and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. Controversial digital upgrades and poorly received prequels have actually made the franchise stronger than ever. Now, with a savvy new set of bosses holding the reins and Episode VII on the horizon, it looks like Star Wars is just getting started.

An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a young filmmaker’s fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals to gain a diehard, multigenerational fan base—and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.


That’s it for 2014. My reading list for 2015 is already underway – Amazon is making a delivery tomorrow, and I’ve just received an email from the library – a book I’ve got on hold just came in.

What will you be reading?

Favorite Books of 2014, Part 1

It’s time to close out the reading year – just in time to start a new one!

A quick review of the numbers:

  • Purchased or review copies of books – 93
  • Library books checked out – 91
  • Kindle books downloaded – 55

That’s 239 books read in 2014, averaging over 4 a week. I’m not a speed-reader per se, but I do read fast – and I don’t read everything in every book.

Of course, reading is a big part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano, so that gives me a definite advantage! Reading is also my main hobby, so even my “down” time often finds me with a book in hand.

In no particular order, here are the first 7 of my 14 favorite books published in 2014.

You can read the rest of the list tomorrow.

I realize this is a very arbitrary list, and has several books that may not seem like leadership books. No apologies there – I happen to believe that leaders in organizations of every size and type have a LOT to learn about their customers (all organizations have customers – we just call them different names). I also believe that all organizations need leaders who are creative and innovative in all areas. Finally, I believe that organizations need leaders who understand the power of simplicity.

Curious? If you’re interested in more than just the title, read on!

WhatGreatBrandsDoWhat Great Brands Do, Denise Lee Yohn

Some business leaders think of brands only in terms of messages and marketing tactics because that’s all they know. Others want a quick fix and would rather change what they say about themselves rather than actually change. Still others understand the full business value of a brand but lack the tools and methods to realize it. What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn will educate the first group, persuade the second, and equip the last.

MomentsofImpactMoments of Impact, Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon

Great strategic conversations generate breakthrough insights by combining the best ideas of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. In this book, Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon “crack the code” on what it takes to design creative, collaborative problem-solving sessions that soar rather than sink.

CreativityInc2Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

EssentialismEssentialism, Greg McKeown

The Way of the Essentialist by Greg McKeown isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

46RulesofGeniusThe 46 Rules of Genius, Marty Neumeier

There’s no such thing as an accidental genius. Anyone who’s reached that exalted state has arrived there by design. But simply wanting to get there is not enough. A would-be genius also needs a theoretical framework, a basic compass, a set of principles to guide the way forward.

Marty Neumeier, acclaimed author of The Brand Gap and Metaskills, has compressed the wisdom of the ages into the first “quick start guide” for genius46 glittering gems that will light your path to creative brilliance. This is THE essential handbook for designers, entrepreneurs, marketers, educators, artists, scientists, innovators, and future leaders in every field.

BriefBrief, Joseph McCormack

Author Joe McCormack tackles the challenges of inattention, interruptions, and impatience that every professional faces. His proven B.R.I.E.F. approach, which stands for Background, Relevance, Information, Ending, and Follow up, helps simplify and clarify complex communication. BRIEF will help you summarize lengthy information, tell a short story, harness the power of infographics and videos, and turn monologue presentations into controlled conversations.

HowTheWorldSeesYouHow the World Sees You, Sally Hogshead

You already know how you see the world.
But do you know how the world sees you?
How is your personality most likely to impress and influence the person sitting on the other side of the desk or boardroom?

Once you know what makes you valuable to others, you’re more authentic and confident, and more able to make a positive impression. It all begins with understanding how the world sees you—at your best. How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead gives you the step-by-step method to describe yourself in just two or three words. This short phrase is your Anthem, the tagline for your personality. Your Anthem guides you like a mission statement, helping you to build your team, write a LinkedIn profile, or captivate an audience.

That’s the first 7 of my 14 favorite books published in 2014. Tomorrow I will list the final 7.

Reading the Year Out

Leaders are readers.

Today and tomorrow’s posts are an annual tradition at 27gen – all about reading and my favorite books of the year. Here are a few links to previous year’s posts – click and follow the link for a few thoughts on the importance of reading – and how to read!

Reading 101

Getting the Most Out of Reading

Put Down the Duckie

Read to Lead

When You Find a Leader, You Find a Reader

Thomas Edison on Reading

Reading Requires Deliberate Practice

I Read to Cheat Old Age – What About You?

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He and my mother insisted we go to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful to my dad for.

I enjoy books as a multisensory experience – you not only read the words on a page, you feel the binding and turn the pages, hear the crackle of a very old book being opened for the first time in a long time, and then there’s that “book” smell – a combination of age, dust, maybe a little dampness – but all telling you an adventure is waiting.

For books connected with my role as Vision Room Curator, I use the margins to have a conversation with the author – writing comments, questions, and references to other books. I also use Post-It notes to mark certain sections. Marking in books was definitely a “no-no” in school, but I have found the practice to be a great help to me in experiencing the book.

Although I’m an early adopter in almost everything else, it’s just that “experience” that has kept me from moving into the eBook world all the way. I’ve been dabbling in eBooks for several years, moving ahead with a Kindle, and I’m glad I did. Having a library at my disposal in one volume has been very rewarding – but I will always be a “book” guy at heart.

So in wrapping up 2014 and looking forward to 2015, you’ll find me with a Kindle in my backpack – and several volumes of traditional books as well!

Next: my favorite books of 2014.

12 Days of Christmas Guest Experiences

For all the Connection Pastors, Guest Services Directors, Guest Services team members, and everyone in your church who want to provide a WOW! Guest Experience…

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On the first day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 1 Word that Says it All

On the second day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 2 Feet that Matter in Guest Experiences

On the third day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 3 Actions to Build a Guest Experience Organization with Clarity of Purpose

On the fourth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 4 Guest Experience Core Competencies

On the fifth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 5 Expectations of Disney Service

On the sixth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 6 Disciplines of Guest Experiences

On the seventh day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 7 Guidelines for Guest Services from Disney

On the eighth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 8 Ways for the Introvert to Serve on a Guest Team

On the ninth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 9 Principles of Innovative Guest Experiences

On the tenth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 10 Commandments for Guest Services from Mickey Mouse

On the eleventh day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 11 Reasons to Smile

On the twelfth day of Christmas Guest Experiences…

>> 12 Principles of Guest Experience Leadership

Tonight, Christmas Eve services are a tradition for many churches. Other churches had special worship services or musical events over the past week.

One of the common threads among all of the events is that churches had the opportunity to welcome Guests, regular attenders, members, and family and friends of all these categories.

Your actions and words have a chance to lower defenses to the Gospel, remove barriers to relationships, and establish an expectation that God is with us…

…make them count!

 

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