The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare for It, Not Just Those Who Plan It

It has been said that all leaders live under the same sky, but not all view the same horizon. Some leaders see a wider horizon and keep their eye on the emerging skyline. Continual learning contributes to their sense of adventure and their ability to steer their organization. Others, however, unknowingly wear blinders. The shifting horizons don’t signal new opportunities because they are unanticipated and out of view.

In this sense, strategic planning is often limited because it keeps blinders on leadership. Auxano founder Will Mancini calls this “fallacy of predictability.” The assumption is that the near future will resemble the recent past. But rapid cultural change has meddled with this assumption. Change now happens so fast that the planning processes of yesteryear are obsolete. Unfortunately, not even the future is what it used to be.

If the North American church is going to avoid the slow but sure death guaranteed by “we’ve always done it that way,” it will have to shift its understanding of both the past that was and the future that is not going to be more of the same.

According to Reggie McNeal, the churches that prepare for the new world will ride the wave of the growth that is possible. Those who don’t prepare will continue to plan their way into cultural irrelevance, methodological obsolescence, and missional ineffectiveness in terms of being kingdom outposts.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger

Explorers Lewis and Clark had to adapt. While they had prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves in the Rocky Mountains.

You too may feel that you are leading in a cultural context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Drawing from his extensive experience as a pastor and consultant, Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world.

If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools. Now expanded with a study guide, this book will set you on the right course to lead with confidence and courage.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Planning assumes predictability in much the same way that a hiker counts on a map to navigate. There are fixed points in the future that can be anticipated, because the mountain pathways and earth-shaped landmarks marks stay relatively fixed over time. Their presence is predictable.

But happens when you encounter something new, and totally unexpected?

In U.S. history, the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery from 1804-1806 documents their journey across the western United States, recently acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and to establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.

Tod Bolsinger, in his book “Canoeing the Mountains,” uses the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition as a metaphor for leaders today who are planning for the future.

Driven by the belief of explorers over the previous three hundred years, Lewis and Clark knew a water route to the Pacific Ocean was somewhere out there.

They could not have been more disappointed.

What Lewis and Clark actually discovered that three hundred years of experts had been completely and utterly wrong. There was no Northwest Passage. No navigable river. No water route.

The driving assumption of the brightest, most adventurous entrepreneurial and creative leaders regarding this new world had been absolutely mistaken.

Today’s leaders are facing complex challenges that have not clear-cut solutions. These challenges are more systemic in nature and require broad, widespread learning. They can’t be solved through a conference, a video series, or a program. Even more complicated, these problems are very often the result of yesterday’s solutions.

Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase was built on a completely false expectation. They believed, like everyone before them, that the unexplored west was exactly the same geography as the familiar east. The story of what they did when they discovered that they – and everyone else before them – had been wrong is instructive and inspiring for leaders today.

The story of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery is the driving metaphor for our present moment in history. In every field, in every business, every organization, leaders are rapidly coming to the awareness that the world in front of us is radically different from everything behind.

In the words of futurist Bob Johansen, after centuries of stability and slow, incremental change, in less than a generation our world has become VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This VUCA world will only become more so in the days ahead and will require all leaders to learn new skills. What we have learned in our schools, through our experience, from our mentors, and by common sense will only take us so far. We now have to use every bit of what we know and become true learners who are ready to adapt to whatever comes before us.

Adaptive challenges (a phrase by Ronald Heifetz in “Leadership on the Line) are the true tests of leadership. They are challenges that go beyond the technical solutions of resident expert or best practices, or even the organization’s current knowledge. They arise when the world around us has changed but we continue to live on the success of the past.

Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains

A NEXT STEP

Author Tod Bolsinger believes that, to live up to their name, local churches must be continually moving out, extending themselves into the world, being the missional, witnessing community we were called into being to be: the manifestation of God’s going into the world, crossing boundaries, proclaiming, teaching, healing, loving, serving, and extending the reign of God.

In short, churches need to keep adventuring or they will die.

Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at the Stanford University School of Engineering, has developed breakthrough thinking – what he calls “weird ideas” – to help organizations foster new ideas while sustaining performance.

Gather your leadership team and work through the following list of his ideas, modified for a ministry setting, to help you think about new ideas and actions.

  • During the early stages of a new ministry idea, don’t study how others have approached it.
  • If you know a lot about a potential problem and how others have solved it in the past, ask people who are ignorant of it to study it and help solve it. Young people, including children, can be especially helpful for this task.
  • Ask new hires (especially those fresh out of school) to solve problems or do tasks that you “know” the answer to or you can’t resolve. Get out of the way for a while to see if they generate some good ideas.
  • Find people working on analogous issues in different organizations, fields, and industries, and ask them how they would solve the problem or do the job.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 110-1, released January 2019


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

The Influence of Your Brand Story

Your BRAND is the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audiences.

Every interaction your audience has with your church or organization forms thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in their minds. In this understanding of a BRAND, everything speaks—business cards, website, words and posture, interaction with volunteers and staff. All of these things contribute to your audience’s perception of you.

With a strong brand, you communicate effectively and consistently across all communication channels.

The branding process is one way to fully leverage the hard work of getting clear about your vision, seeing it come to life in all of your communication.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Brand Identity Breakthrough by Gregory V. Diehl

Does your business have a story to tell? It should! Every new product can be unique in its industry. Does yours stand out from the crowd?

After a life of exploring the way people exchange value in over 35 countries, Diehl teaches business owners how to have conversations about brand strategy. In Brand Identity Breakthrough, you will learn how to develop a strong business identity by combining your personality and values with the functionality of your products to become irreplaceable to your audience.

Whether you lead a growing company, or are just starting a business, Brand Identity Breakthrough will give you a smarter way to think about new product development and business model generation. With undeniable, well-organized logic, it will show you how anyone can sell more, and at higher prices, so long as they give customers exactly what they want.

* Learn how to build a unique selling proposition for your product
* Learn the best methods for how to sell a product to customers, no matter what you offer.
* Overcome the sales learning curve, and sell products in both physical and online marketplaces.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

We live in a world where we are sold to hundreds, maybe thousands, of times a day and have become ridiculously blind to those trying to sell us something.

But we’re always up for a good story. Stories are the most powerful form of inspiration and persuasion in the world.

Great stories are ones that others want to retell. Think about folklore, urban legends, or other stories you have heard. Most of those stories are not from your own experiences or ones that you have created. They are often stories that have been passed along to you by somebody else, who has also gotten it from another person.

Now place the power of stories in terms of your organization and its mission. When you have a mission that is much larger than yourself, you are able to attract the attention of people. People don’t want to be a part of an organization; they want to be a part of a mission. The story you tell should be inspirational and give people a purpose.

Organizations who learn to use stories have a feeling of authenticity and humanity about them, almost a magnetic quality.

If you learn to tell an engaging story about what you do, you will capture the interest of more people, and they will automatically qualify themselves for what you offer as they learn and retain the most important elements.

A good narrative is designed to tap into the natural curiosity and emotional engagement that everybody has within them. It is the exact same way that a truly captivating movie, book, or even a song can draw us in from complete indifference to being fully invested in whatever is going on.

Characters in our head become just as real as the people we know, even though they exist only as information in our memories. It is a universal tendency for all of us to want to give our minds interesting new ideas to play with and engage our emotions.

Your narrative is business is the story that you should be telling the world about why your business exists and how it can change lives. Think about gradually moving away from “what we do” conversations, and weave an engaging story about the motivation, purpose, personality, methodology, and results you offer.

With a strong narrative, you will incite curiosity in strangers who would otherwise ignore you. You will have a stronger personal investment in the actions of your organization because you will believe in what it stands for and what it does. Your actions will make sense within a larger framework of purpose,, which will build upon cumulative progress.

Gregory V. Diehl, Brand Identity Breakthrough

A NEXT STEP

Narratives are mental structures you use to organize information about the world.

Author Gregory Diehl suggests the following questions as a starting point in building a narrative for your brand.

Gather your team together, and write the following four questions at the top of four chart tablets.

  • Define your idea – “Why should this exist?”
  • Define your target – “Who needs this specifically?”
  • Define their needs – “Why should they care?”
  • Define yourself – “Why should they come to us?”

Discuss each of the questions with your team, making notes of the comments for each question.

How can you use the comments to help craft a narrative for your brand?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 109-2, released January 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

To Help Solve Problems, Practice a Six-Step Design Thinking Process

According to the authors of Solving Problems with Design Thinking, most leaders harbor a deep, dark secret: They believe in their hearts that they are not creative, and find themselves short on delivering innovation ideas to their organizations.

In today’s seemingly rampant innovation mania, managers and leaders cannot appear unimaginative, let alone fail to come up with brilliant solutions to vexing problems on a whim.

For most of us there will be no Moses-like parting of the waters of the status quo  that we might safely cross the Red Sea of innovation. Drowning is more likely our fate.  

– from Solving Design Problems

There is hope.

Instead of trying to part the waters, leaders need to build a bridge to take us from the current reality to a new future.

In other words, we must manufacture our own miracles.

The technology for better bridge building already exists, right under our noses. It’s called design thinking.

This approach to problem solving is distinguished by the following attributes:

  • It emphasizes the importance of discovery in advance of solution generation using market research approaches that are empathetic and user driven
  • It expands the boundaries of both our problem definition and our solutions
  • It is enthusiastic about engaging partners in co-creation
  • It is committed to conducting real-world experiments rather than just running analyses using historical data

And it works.

Design thinking is capable of reliably producing new and better ways of creatively solving a host of organizational problems.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Design for Strengths by John K. Coyle

Are you on the cusp of greatness? Do you have untapped potential and talents just waiting to be released? Read this book to learn the same creative problem-solving methodology (Design Thinking) used extensively at Stanford, Google, IDEO, and Apple. This guide will unlock your personal potential, and that of your team and your business.

By exploring the intersection of Design Thinking and strengths-finding, innovation expert John K. Coyle demonstrates what most high achievers intuitively know-that each one of us possesses a unique combination of strengths, talents, skills and capabilities to achieve breakthrough performance-but may need a code to unlock them.

Design for Strengths delivers the process, tools and mindsets required to find and maximize your hidden potential. Illuminated by a captivating narrative of Olympic training and competition, Coyle demonstrates how he used the Design Thinking process and mindset to hack the sport of speed skating and win an Olympic silver medal. This book contains real-life examples of how individuals and organizations can use Design Thinking to define the right problem, and to ask and answer a better question. Instead of “how do I fix my weaknesses?” ask, “how can I design for my strengths?”

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Design is all about action, and churches too often get stuck at the talking stage.

Face it – despite all our planning and analyzing and controlling, the typical church’s track record at translating its rhetoric into results is not impressive.

In the business world, researchers estimate that only somewhere between 10% and 60% of the promised returns for new strategies are actually delivered. Having been around ChurchWorld for over 38 years, my observation is the reality would be between 10% and 30% – tops.

Practices that consume enormous amounts of time and attention produce discouraging results. All the empty talk is making it harder and harder to get anything to actually happen. Churches expect the staff to be member-focused while the majority watches. When a staff or volunteer actually takes a risk, they are punished if it doesn’t succeed. Ambitious growth goals aren’t worth the spreadsheets they are computed on.

Getting new results requires new tools – and design thinking has real tools to help move from talk to action.

Design thinking is a simple framework and process to guide creative problem solving – a way to leverage the designer’s mindset to “solve old problems” in new ways.

Here are quick snapshots of each of the six Design Thinking steps.

Accept: Like so many problem-solving methodologies, the first step in the Design Thinking process is to admit there is a problem. Corollary to this is the idea that you don’t want to accept or work on problems that are completely intractable. There is a fine line between giving up too early and taking on the impossible.

Define: Often the “obvious” fix to a problem is the wrong one. The define stage is all about framing and reframing the problem in meaningful and solvable ways.

Empathize: This is perhaps the most important element of Design Thinking and probably also the hardest. Empathy doesn’t mean sympathy or agreeing with a particular viewpoint. Empathy means being able to shift your own thinking to emulate the thought patterns of someone else, to understand why something can make sense to someone possessing a particular mindset in a particular context.

Ideate: Probably the simplest step in Design Thinking – and yet the one with a methodology most quickly abandoned. Generating ideas without judgment is vastly superior to the simultaneous divergent/convergent process that almost every meeting in the world manages to evoke.

Prototype: Critical to this step is a “learn-by-doing” action bias and mindset. It is less about feedback and much more about the willingness to produce a less-than-perfect artifact or process that we could learn from.

Test: This phase is a decision point; either A) we have confidence to launch through quantitative data, or B) we need to return to Define, Empathy, or Prototype to tweak our problem statement, understanding, or approach. In this phase, you take a prototype – a new way of doing something – and try it in “real life.”

John K. Coyle, Design for Strengths

A NEXT STEP

It may be simplistic, but when it comes to problem solving, there are basically two kinds of problems: the simple and the complex. Simple problems really aren’t “simple” – it’s just that their solutions are often obvious, and require specific types of action to solve. Think of building a house – it’s a complicated process, but the “solutions” have been honed and refined over hundreds of years until they become somewhat formulaic.

On the other hands, complex problems do not have easy answers, and may even appear to be unsolvable at first glance. Reframing stubborn and complex challenges as design problems allows new ideas and solutions to emerge.

With this in mind, schedule a team meeting to tackle a complex problem that either exists or you see on the horizon.

On the top of six chart tablets, write the key word for each of the steps listed above. Copy and distribute this SUMS Remix to use as a guide for your team in discussing and listing actions that correspond to the six steps.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 111-1, released January 2019


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

The Power of Brand Perception

Your BRAND is the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audiences.

Every interaction your audience has with your church or organization forms thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in their minds. In this understanding of a BRAND, everything speaks—business cards, website, words and posture, interaction with volunteers and staff. All of these things contribute to your audience’s perception of you.

With a strong brand, you communicate effectively and consistently across all communication channels.

The branding process is one way to fully leverage the hard work of getting clear about your vision, seeing it come to life in all of your communication.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Branding Faith by Phil Cooke

Have you hit a wall with your church, ministry or non-profit organization? In spite of a genuine calling, an exceptional team and solid investment in the vision, have you noticed that the spark never catches fire? Media and marketing expert Phil Cooke wants every ministry to ask, “Who are we?”

By identifying what makes your organization different from the thousands clamoring for attention, you can get your message heard. Cooke has consulted with many of the most recognized churches and non-profits in the world, and in Branding Faith: Why Some Ministries Impact Culture and Others Don’t, he shares his road-tested strategies for using media and marketing to make your mark on people’s minds and hearts. Whatever the size of your organization, his helpful hints and insider know-how will give you the tools to set your ministry’s strategies ablaze.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – The Power of Brand Perception

The brand is what people think about your church. Your brand is what people think about your church, the expectation, the idea, they have. It’s not what you have. It’s what they have.

Branding, at its heart, is about making an emotional connection. If it’s what people think, we want to make that emotional connection there. People fall in love with brands. They trust them.

Brand is how people feel about us. There’s that emotional connection that’s built there.

Auxano Navigator Bryan Rose shares two two ways to think about your brand: “There are actually two brands, the big “B” brand, and the small “b” brand. Let’s define the two. The big “B” brand represents the impression that your church leaves in someone’s mind as a result of a total experience with the ministry. Brand is every interaction that occurs on behalf of the church. Person to person, environments, culture, the worship experience, social media presence, the posts, and their responses.”

All of those things come together as the big “B” brand. So, your church’s brand, the big “B” brand, lives in someone’s mind, lives in the people’s mind, and it’s a result of all these experiences. 

The key to effective branding is that a successful brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is.

Telling an effective story about your church, ministry, project, or even yourself begins with understanding the power of perception. In a media-driven culture, perception can be even more important than reality because, with the advent of technology, word travels fast.

Whether it’s a simple email message that is continually forwarded exponentially to everyone in your address book, a viral video that’s distributed through the Web, or the convenience of cell phones, in the digital age, it’s tough to keep a lid on bad news.

The influence of the mass media in our culture is changing everything, and “perception” is the language spoken by modern media. In a world when sound bites heavily influence the political process, the unique characteristics of mass media now affect every aspect of our lives.

It’s not about facts; it’s about perception.

In today’s media-saturated culture, who you are becomes less important that how you’re perceived. When researchers study the process of communication, they realize that the message being sent is not always the message being received. For a variety of reasons, few communicated messages actually arrive with the same intentions, information, and impact.

The art of perception can be also be used to promote positive projects, people, values, or ideas. In spite of its abuse, the power of perception can be utilized for good if we know how to activate it in our lives. The way to do that is to consider your audience before crafting your message.

Phil Cooke, Branding Faith

A NEXT STEP

Because it’s not the message you send, it’s the message that’s received that counts.

As author Phil Cooke states, “It doesn’t matter how brilliant your sermons are; if your attention is misunderstood by the listener, then you’ve failed to communicate.”

He recommends that leaders start at the receiving end first to make sure your message has the best chance of being received properly.

In other words, don’t begin with your message; begin with your audience.

In advance of your next speaking opportunity, consider using questions like the following to help understand your audience:

  • Who is my audience? You have to think like an audience member – what would they want to receive from a speaker?
  • What are their stakes? Do you know why they are present? Chances are the outcome that they are looking for is not connected to your goals.
  • How can you repackage your presentation? Without changing your core message, what can you revise in order to align with your audience’s needs?
  • How can you redefine the expectations of your audience to meet yours?
  • What language and visual style is your audience expecting?
  • Why is your core message interesting for your audience?
  • What is the best medium for your core message to come through? Are you better off talking without visual aids, or are they appropriate?
  • What “gifts” can you give to impact your audience? Your presentation happens, and then? A strong core message may be remembered, but wouldn’t it be better if your audience changed their behavior by integrating some of the knowledge and ideas from your presentation in their daily lives?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 109-1, released January 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

The Secret to My Deliberate Practice of Reading

Part Three of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “The Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Regular reading of both books and magazines remains a part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for writing and publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders.

SUMS Remix is beginning its eighth year – the first two years contained a single book in each issue; the last five years include three books in each issue. If I’ve done my math correctly, that’s 453 books covered in 186 issues since the fall of 2012.

I do like to read!

I’ve recently referenced the “Four Levels of Reading” from a book by Mortimer J. Adler, and how critical they are to my deliberate practice of reading. To help understand, I’m going to illustrate some of the books I’ve read during 2019 by those four levels.

In the process, to close out this “reading week,” I’m taking you back to the very first SUMS book summary…

… because there’s no better place to start than “How to Read a Book.”


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate. – Mortimer J. Adler

 

sums-1-howtoreadabookMortimer J. Adler was an American author, educator, and philosopher who championed the repopularization of the Great Books and Great Ideas curriculum of study. A prolific scholar, he was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s very fitting then, that one of his best-known works is How to Read a Book.

The art of reading is the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from the outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations.

 

The Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading – so called because they are cumulative in that each level includes all the others, and you can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before. They four levels are:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

1 – Elementary Reading – What does the book say?

In mastering this level, one learns the rudiments of the art of reading, receives basic training in reading, and acquires reading skills. Our first encounter at reading is at this level; sadly, many people never progress beyond this level.

At this level of reading, the question asked of the reader is “What does the sentence say?” While that could be conceived as a complex question, in this setting take it at its simplest sense.

The attainment of the skills of elementary reading occurred some time ago for almost everyone reading this summary. Nevertheless, we continue to experience the problems of this level of reading, no matter how capable we may be as readers.

Many readers continue to have various kinds of difficulties reading at this level. Most of the difficulties are mechanical, and can be traced back to early instruction in reading. Overcoming these difficulties usually allows us to read faster.

There are four basic stages of Elementary Reading:

  1. Reading readiness’ (early physical development)
  2. Simple reading (small vocabulary; simple skills)
  3. Expanded reading (large vocabulary; diverse subjects; enjoyment)
  4. Refined reading (understand concepts; compare different views)

Almost all of the books I get on a weekly basis from my local library are Elementary Reading. Sometimes, they intrigue me enough that I will acquire my own copy for deeper reading, but for the most part, just the pure pleasure of reading is enough.

2 – Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?

The focus of reading at this level is to get the most out of a book with in a given amount of time. When reading at this level, your aim is to examine the surface of the book, to learn everything that the surface alone can teach you – which is often a good deal.

Techniques for Inspectional Reading of a book include:

  1. Systematic skimming or pre-reading
  2. Look at the title page and preface: try to pigeonhole type of book
  3. Study table of contents: look for structure/road map for trip
  4. Check index: estimate range of terms and topics; look up some passages that seem crucial
  5. Check the dust jacket: read the publisher’s blurb
  6. Look for chapters which seem most pivotal: read opening and/or
 closing passages/pages carefully
  7. Thumb through entire book, reading a few paragraphs and/or pages
 here and there, esp. at the end, looking for the main argument(s)

Some books, whether from the library, or perusing the shelves at a bookstore, by prior experience with the author, or from a recommendation from a friend, require deeper reading – if even for only a short while.

 

3 – Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?

The third level of reading, analytical reading, is both a more complex and a more systematic activity than either of the previous two levels of reading. Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading – the best you can do. The analytical reader must ask many organized questions of what he is reading.

Analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Moving your mind from a condition of understanding less to a condition of understanding more with the aid of a book is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading.

Techniques for Analytical Reading include:

  1. Underlining key sentences
  2. Vertical lines to mark key sections
  3. Marginal doodads like asterisks and stars
  4. Numbers of other pages in the margin
  5. Circling key words or phrases
  6. Writing in margins, or top and bottom
  7. Structural notes – about the content of the subject
  8. Conceptual notes – about the truth and significance
  9. Dialectical notes – about the shape of the argument in the larger discussion of other people’s ideas

Many of my books are specifically acquired with the purpose of having a conversation with the author – through the process outlined above. These are for specific projects, deeper levels of interest, or candidates for the fourth level of reading. Here is part of my bookshelves in a large area of analytical reading – customer experience, to be “translated” into the area of Guest Experiences.

4 – Syntopical Reading – How does this book compare with other books?

The fourth and highest level of reading is the most complex and systematic type of reading. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials themselves are relatively easy and unsophisticated.

Another name for this level of reading may be called comparative reading. The reader is reading many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Mere comparison of texts is not enough: syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books being read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. Syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading.

Techniques in Syntopical Reading include:

  1. Find the relevant passages
  2. Establish a common terminology
  3. Clarify the questions
  4. Define the issues
  5. Analyze the discussion and look for the truth

The final level of reading, Syntopical Reading, I break down into two categories. The first is best illustrated by SUMS Remix. After developing a problem statement, I research and read books that will provide a solution to that problem. I am searching for the “best” three for each issue – “best” being defined in some combination of recent publication, unique solutions, or something that is worth considering but comes from left field. The timeframe for this type of syntopical reading is very compressed. With a biweekly publication schedule, the research, reading, first drafts, reviews, initial design, final design, and shipping mean that at any given time, twelve books are in the pipeline for inclusion in a SUMS Remix.

The other category of Syntopical Reading I use is for longer-term projects, in which I am continually researching for both current application and future use. An example is shown below: First Place Hospitality. Other examples I could use would be a specific part of Guest Experiences, like the Journey Map; or, maybe ongoing research into the life of Walt Disney, viewed from early accounts from the 1930s-40s, as well as more recent efforts.

That’s it – the Four Levels of Reading illustrated above are the secret to my deliberate practice of reading.

Reading and the Growth of the Mind

Active reading is the asking of questions and looking for answers. Good books stretch our minds, improve our reading
 skills, and teach us about the world and ourselves. Good books make demands on us.

But there is a world beyond good books – that of great books. Good books need have no more than one meaning and one reading
. Great books, on the other hand, have many meanings and need to be read over and over again.

The test of a great book:

  1. If you were marooned on a desert island, which ten books would you select?
  2. Does the book seem to grow with you?
  3. Do you see new things every time
 you re-read it?
  4. Is the book is able to lift you over and over again?

Seek out the few books that have these values for you.

Reading well, which means reading actively, is not only good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. Reading keeps our minds alive and growing. – Mortimer J. Adler

 


 

> Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

> Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 


 

Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix from the past year and publishing an excerpt.

If you like those, you will probably be interested in current and/or past issues.

>> Purchase a current subscription to SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

You Can’t Read All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning

Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


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 excerpt in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2019 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 76 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role requires 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. I’m building The Essential Guest Experience Library.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently over 405 volumes and growing!

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 5 categories all together, and by the end of 2019 I will have added 268 books to my library, and brought home another 110 books from the library. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 378 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, and knowing there is more to my job than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book. There’s dozens of that total in which I only read the “highlights,” following the methods below.

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 each chapter. 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!

With that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2019 was 213 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), I don’t typically make a “Best of” list for the year. I find some value in almost every book I read, and for me, that’s good enough.

I talked about that in a recent podcast with Bryan Rose. You can listen here.

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 2020, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting one of my favorite bookstores later this week, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by the end of this week, and I’m headed to the library today to pick up another couple on reserve.

After all, you can’t read all day…

…if you don’t start in the morning!

 

Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 

How to Find and Fulfill the Central Purpose of Your Life

Life Younique founder Will Mancini asks this question: 

Do you see your mission in life as something created, designed, and given by God? We are called not just to follow Jesus (a common call to all people) but we are called to accomplish something specific as a one-of-a-kind saint (your special assignment from God).

Is there a process of discovering and living out your unique life call?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Call by Oz Guinness

The Call continues to stand as a classic, reflective work on life’s purpose. Best-selling author Os Guinness goes beyond our surface understanding of God’s call and addresses the fact that God has a specific calling for our individual lives.

Why am I here? What is God’s call in my life? How do I fit God’s call with my own individuality? How should God’s calling affect my career, my plans for the future, my concepts of success? Guinness now helps the reader discover answers to these questions, and more, through a corresponding workbook – perfect for individual or group study.

According to Guinness, “No idea short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose and fulfillment.” With tens of thousands of readers to date, The Call is for all who desire a purposeful, intentional life of faith.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The journey to “discover one’s self” has many paths. There are also innumerable resources along those paths. The bookshelves – both physical and digital – are filled with volumes dedicated to helping you “discover your purpose,” “finding the true you,” and many more similar promises.

If you are serious about undertaking such a journey, beware of the inadequate answers offered by most of those resources. While not necessarily wrong, they all fall short of this truth verbalized by author Os Guinness:

Our life purpose comes from two sources at once – who we are created to be and who we are called to be. The real notion of calling is the “ultimate why” for human living.

Become an entrepreneur of life and see all of life as an enterprise transformed by his call. Count the cost, consider the risks, and set out each day on a venture to multiply your gifts and opportunities and bring glory to God and add value to our world. Answering the call is the road to purpose and fulfillment in your life.

Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves. Only such a larger purpose can inspire us to heights we know we could never reach on our own. For each of us the real purpose is personal and passionate: to know what we are here to do, and why.

The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.

Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.

Os Guinness, The Call

A NEXT STEP

Set aside a two-hour time block free of distractions of any kind. Divide a chart tablet into three sections, and head each one with the following:

Devotion – commitment to some purpose, willingness to serve God

Dynamism – the activeness of an energetic personality

Direction – the concentration of attention or energy on something

Author Os Guinness states, “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

Rereading this statement each time, take 30 minutes to reflect on each of the three categories listed on the chart tablet. Write as many words, phrases, or sentences – or draw images – that illustrate your current life in that particular area.

After you have completed all three sections, take a 20-minute prayer walk outside, away from distractions, asking God to help you focus those three areas to that you are both comforted and challenged by the calling of God in your life.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 106-1, released November 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<