What’s Shaping the Minds of This Year’s Freshman Class, the Class of 2021

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Today, the Mindset List of the Class of 2021 was released.

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

  • Are the last class to be born in the 1900s, making them the last of the Millennials.
  • Are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, or a research library.
  • Have always had emojis to cheer them up.

For those who cannot comprehend that it has been 18 years since this year’s entering college students were born, they should recognize that the next four years will go even faster, confirming the authors’ belief that “generation gaps have always needed glue.”

Here are a few nuggets from this year’s Mindset Class for the Class of 2021. You must read the entire list here!

  • They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  • Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  • They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  • By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  • Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  • Ketchup has always come in green.
  • The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  • Family Guy is the successor to the Father Knows Best they never knew.

You can find the rest of the list here.

Read it now.

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How to Establish a Systems Thinking Mindset on Your Team

How do you cultivate long-term commitment on your team?

Many teams today are not really teams at all – organizationally, structurally, and motivationally they are not set up to work as individual parts of a larger, unified whole. Often they reflect outdated organizational charts that have little to do with current reality. There are times when a leader realizes their team is actually a collection of individuals who are looking out for themselves. Left in this state, a team can actually become a divisive and damaging cancer to the organization.

Is it little wonder, then, that leaders seek help in cultivating commitment within their teams? The problem isn’t necessarily with the team members or leaders themselves, but what the team is being asked to do: work together without any larger sense of organizational direction or purpose.

If your team needs a boost in commitment, consider establishing a systems thinking mindset on your team.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Leadership Equation, by Eric Douglas

What distinguishes the most successful organizations?

What do the leaders and managers in these top organizations actually do?

In this fascinating book, entrepreneur and business consultant, Eric Douglas, paints a clear picture of what happens inside high-performing organizations. He reveals a simple but profound equation: Trust + Spark = Leadership Culture. Leaders and managers are most successful when they focus on building trust and sparking innovation.

In The Leadership Equation, Douglas expands the equation into the 10 most important practices for building trust and spark. As Douglas clearly shows, when trust and spark combine, leaders improve the performance of their team, their department, and the entire organization – and, ultimately, reach their own full potential.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Entrepreneur and organizational consultant, Eric Douglas, wants leaders to realize the importance of engaging in systems thinking, and in turn, leading their teams to do the same.

“Systems thinking” is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots.

Today, systems thinking is needed more than ever in the increasingly complex world we live and minister in. It is all too easy for organizations to break down despite individual brilliance, because they are unable to pull their diverse functions and talents into a productive whole. 

To achieve a leadership culture, the power of systems thinking needs to spread throughout the organization. Systems thinking teaches us to appreciate how a decision made in isolation can negatively affect others.

We teach our clients to see their organizations holistically, asking them to look at it from five systems perspectives – strategy, governance, performance, process, and people.

Strategy – From this perspective, you focus on the long-term trends affecting your organization. You respond positively by thinking about the long-term use of your resources and how to focus to achieve your most important priorities. You respond negatively by focusing too much on factors beyond your control.

Governance – From this perspective, you focus on the system of decision-making that controls the direction of your organization. You respond positively by thinking about governance and being very specific about delegations of authority. You respond negatively by blaming people for making misguided decisions when the system isn’t clear.

Performance – From this perspective, you focus on systems for measuring performance, first at the organizational level, then to departments, teams, and finally to individuals. You respond positively by deciding which metrics and targets to track at each level and what communication systems to use. You respond negatively by paying too much attention to individual cases of poor performance.

Process – From this perspective, you focus internally on the process of producing value, measuring effectiveness and efficiency. You respond positively by thinking about how to improve the individual components of the process. You respond negatively by singling out specific individuals for not managing a process consistently or efficiently.

People – From this perspective, you focus on your system of hiring and rewarding people. You focus on how to get the right people on board and how to develop them in their roles. Your respond negatively by selecting and promoting people based on arbitrary factors.

– Eric Douglas, The Leadership Equation

A NEXT STEP

Your leaders want to be on a winning team, and teams are most successful when they are innovating and executing around consistent systems. The art of developing systems thinking is found in the organization of your actions and attitudes and the realization that each perspective needs to be measured against every other.

At your next team meeting, list the five systems perspectives above on a whiteboard or flip-chart. Choose a recent leadership team decision and take that decision through each of the five systems perspectives, asking for each, “what worked?”, “what did not work?”, and “what would we do next time?’

At the conclusion of this exercise, sift through the why behind those response to begin to develop a set of guidelines that will help your team see the positive benefits of systems thinking while avoiding the negative consequences.


While all too often teams are “teams” in name only, individual commitment to a larger whole is an integral part of the success of any organization.

By engaging in systems thinking, leaders can help their teams maintain commitment and accomplish their Great Commission call.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 12-3, published April 2015


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

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.

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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.

Cooperation Rather Than Confrontation

Following the Civil War, economic recovery and expansion in the United States was to a large part driven by the expansion of the railroad system.

From its infancy in the 1830s through the 1870s, railroad systems developed piecemeal within the borders of each state. Everything from locomotive size to railcar layout to schedules to fares was developed only with a mind to serve a limited scope – usually measured in tens of miles, occasionally getting up into the hundreds of miles. Nowhere was this more glaring than the rail gauge, or distance between rails.

Facing a tremendous rebuilding effort, with grand schemes of expansion beyond that, the independent railroad systems of the mid-1880s realized that it would be better to serve national, rather than local, interests. The idea that it was better for a railroad to have a separate gauge from its local rivals had become redundant.

Cooperation rather than confrontation was now the watchword.

After decades of incessant fighting, railroad companies realized that railroads work best as an integrated system; the longer that passengers and freight can travel without changing trains, the better the service.

In the South, the five-foot gauge was changed to standard (4 feet, 8 ½ inches) over two days in the summer of 1886.

Two days.

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Large gangs of track workers moved one of the rails on 13,000 miles of track. The operation – staggering in its scope – also required converting 1,800 locomotives and 40,000 coaches. Up until this time, trains heading in and out of the South had been subject of delays as their cars were lifted by hoists and attached to wheel sets of the right gauge.

The efforts of tens of thousands of workers over a momentous thirty-six-hour period on May 31-June 1, 1886 created – at last – a unified railroad for almost the whole United States.

Are there bottlenecks in your organization where converting to a “standard gauge” will bring tremendous growth opportunities?

Background material from The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar

What Account Do I Draw From to Pay Attention?

Last fall I had the opportunity to be a part of The Adams Family Adventure – a week-long trip to Walt Disney World for my immediate family of fifteen: six children and nine adults.

All week long I had the most fun watching the rest of the family as they experienced Walt Disney World, most for the first time. We captured that trip in over 3,000 images, whose primary purpose was to bring up stories from our memory from that single image.

As we departed four different cities on the first day of our trip, we were texting and FaceTiming about our various experiences. It was the first airplane flight for four of the grandchildren (they did great). They left their homes early in the morning, took long flights, got on a big “magical” bus, and arrived at our resort.

To our grandchildren, it must have been a little strange. From the time they came running off the bus, throughout all of the fun adventures of the week, to the goodbyes at the end of the week, they were a little overwhelmed, maybe even overstimulated about the whole process – and I began to see all over again what it means to be curious.

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

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…

How to Rewire Your Teams for Maximum Collaboration

Do key leaders in your organization only think about their ministry area and not the entire organization?

Divisions are necessary in all organizations, even churches. They provide the structure that allows your ministry to function smoothly. Every organization is divided into divisions, functions, or some type of grouping. Doing so allows each group to develop the special skill sets needed to make it function.

But when departments or functional areas become isolated from one another it causes problems. Leaders often refer to this as creating silos.

But organizational silos can also cause problems – the same structural benefits listed above also prevent the flow of information, focus, and control outward. In order for an organization to work efficiently, decisions need to be made across silos.

To break the down the barriers of silos in your organization, the goal is not to destroy the meaningful structural divisions themselves but to eliminate the problems that silos cause.

Many organizations will face the following barriers:

  • Uncoordinated decision-making
  • Competing priorities
  • Dilution of energy and effort

The following excerpt will provide your organization tools to help break down the silos in your organization.

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THE QUICK SUMMARYMidnight Lunch, Sarah Miller Caldicott

Thomas Edison created multi-billion dollar industries that still exist today. What many people don’t realize is that his innovations were generated through focused approaches to teamwork and collaboration.

Authored by the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Midnight Lunch provides an intriguing look at how to use Edison’s collaboration methods to strengthen live and virtual teams today.

 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

A church accomplishing its mission requires many people working on multiple teams to be successful. Often, these teams drift into a pattern of accomplishing things “their way,” erroneously thinking that what’s best for their team will be best for the organization as a whole.

This lack of coordinated decision making across the organization is the third indicator of silos in the organization.

True collaboration operates like an invisible glue that fuses learning, insight, purpose, complexity, and results together in one continuous effort.

Thomas Edison viewed true collaboration among his teams as a value creation continuum, recognizing that complexity was a norm that all team members needed to understand and address. Here is a four-phase model of the collaboration process that translates Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader. A core question serves as a launching point for the exploration of each phase.

> How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

> How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

> Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

> How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Midnight Lunch

A NEXT STEP

Church leadership teams aren’t working to invent the next light bulb, but Edison’s Four Collaboration Phases can be instructive for leaders who want to break down silos on their teams

Within the four phases of capacity, context, coherence, and complexity lies the invisible glue that can help your organization develop true collaboration practices to achieve your mission.

Phase 1 – Capacity

Create your own “midnight lunch” experience by ordering pizza or other takeout food. Pick a unique place in your normal environment that is not normally associated with regular tasks, or go offsite. Use the informal atmosphere to foster conversations about interest areas of all your group members. Actively listen to the conversations, and develop a deeper level of knowledge – and connection – with your teammates.

Phase 2 – Context

As a team, take 10 minutes and create an individual list of the various sources of information you draw from each week. Does your team see a pattern in their lists? Now challenge them to create another list of five additional sources that will intentionally shift the context of their information-gathering. During weekly meetings, take five minutes to share how this new context is broadening their ministry context.

Phase 3 – Coherence

When team members begin to use self-referencing language (I, me, mine) more than team-referencing language (us, our, ours), it is an indicator that defenses are being raised and the team is in danger of losing coherence. Often, the language of the team is the first indicator of a team losing its momentum toward a shared goal. Lead your team to be constantly aware of their language, and guide them to practice inclusive language by first modeling it yourself.

Phase 4 – Complexity

Among all organizations, the church has the most potential for the existence of excessive hierarchy. To overcome this, lead your team to clear away internal roadblocks which add unnecessary time and complexity to your process. The use of the strategy map process above can be both a beginning point and continual guide to your journey toward simplification.


Closing Thoughts

Cooperation, communication, and collaboration are three keys to breaking down the organizational silos that are keeping you from achieving your mission.

Taken from SUMS Remix, Issue 9-3, March, 2015


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

How to Increase Your Team’s Productivity by Modeling Your Own

You have a pretty good sense that most of your team has too much to handle and not enough time to get it done – you may not have a sense of how much you are contributing to the problem.

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. Why not show them how by modeling effectiveness in your leadership?

By its very nature ministry makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

To give your team practical help for personal productivity, blaze the trail by modeling a rock-solid work routine.

 

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THE QUICK SUMMARY

Are you over-extended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed? Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven’t accomplished the most important things on your agenda when you leave the office?

The world has changed and the way we work has to change, too. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, Manage Your Day-to-Day will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.

Manage Your Day-to-Day shows you how to build a rock-solid daily routine field in a constant barrage of messages, find focus amid chaos, and carve out the time you need to do the work that matters

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The biggest problem we face today is “reactionary workflow.” We live our lives pecking away at the many inboxes around us, trying to stay afloat by responding and reacting to the latest thing: emails, text messages, Tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts, etc.

Because we are constantly connected to family, friends, and our co-workers, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us. Being informed and connected becomes a disadvantage when the deluge of information overwhelms your ability to think and act.

It’s time to consider a change in your routine – one that will maximize your creative potential by allocating your best time of the day to it, and then allowing all the other “stuff” to come later.  

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.

The Building Blocks of a Great Routine

Of course, it’s all well and good to say buckle down and ignore pesky requests, but how can you do so on a daily basis?

Start with the rhythm of your energy levels. Certain times of day are especially conducive to focused creativity, thanks to circadian rhythms of arousal and mental alertness. Notice when you seem to have the most energy during the day, and dedicate those valuable periods to your most important creative work.

Use creative triggers. Stick to the same tools, the same surroundings, even the same background music, so that they become associative triggers for you to enter the creative zone.

Manage to-do list creep. Limit your daily to-do list. A 3” by 3” Post-It© is perfect – if you can’t fit everything into that size, how will you do it all in one day? If you keep adding to your to-do list during the day, you will never finish – and your motivation will plummet. Most things can wait till tomorrow – so let them.

Capture every commitment. Train yourself to record every commitment you make (to yourself and others) somewhere that will make it impossible to forget. This will help you respond to requests more efficiently and make you a better collaborator. More importantly, it will give you peace of mind – when you are confident that everything has been captured reliably, you can focus on the task at hand.

Establish hard edges in your day. Set a start time and a finish time for your workday – even if you work alone. Dedicate different times of day to different activities: creative work, meetings, correspondence, administrative work, and so on. These hard edges keep tasks from taking longer than they need to and encroaching on your other important work. They also help you avoid workaholism, which is far less productive than it looks.

– Mark McGuinness, Manage Your Day-to-Day

A NEXT STEP

Over a period of five weeks, commit to experimenting with each of the 5 Building Blocks, one each week. As you use each building block during your work day, evaluate moments of increase or moments of distraction, and modify that particular Building Block to drive effectiveness.

After one month of using the building blocks, make an honest assessment of your work routines by asking the following questions:

  • Do you feel that your work is more productive?
  • Can you list specific ways that your work is more productive?
  • What building block was the hardest to implement? Why?
  • What building block was the easiest to implement? Why?

After you have completed your personal assessment, ask a close colleague or two the same questions. Compare their answers to yours, and make any adjustments needed.


Closing Thoughts

Becoming effective in your own work habits will serve as both an inspiration and guide for your team. By demonstrating an effective, balanced role model, you are leading your team to effectiveness of vision, not just managing their output of activity.

Taken from SUMS Remix, Issue 16-3, June, 2015


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.