Great Design is…

Utterly unexpected. A brilliantly designed product or service is clever and amazing. Think anything Apple.

Amazingly competent. A well-conceived product excels at what it does. It is functionally flawless. Think a Ziploc bag or Google’s home page.

Aesthetically exquisite. At the pinnacle of great design are products so gorgeous you want to hug them. Think a Porsche 911.

Conspicuously conscientious. Consumers (especially those under 30) are demanding socially responsible products and services that reflect a sense of stewardship for the environment and a passion for making a difference. Think Prius.

Unfortunately, design is still an afterthought in most organizations. Great design is less about genius than empathy – and it’s often the tiniest things that make the biggest difference.

– from Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now

Designing takes place in the uncomfortable gap between vision and reality.

Marty Neumeier, The Designful Company

Design is not just about products, even though that is often our first and only thought when it comes to design.

Design is change.

You need to find a situation worth improving and then work through the creative process.

For ChurchWorld Design Thinkers (aka Leaders)

  • What are the thoughtless little ways we irritate our members and Guests and what can we do to change that?
  • What are the small, unexpected delights we could deliver to our members and Guests at virtually no cost?

Design Thinking Matters.




What Happens When Your Vision is Too Rigid and Can’t Account for Change in the Environment?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #8: The plan is too rigid and can’t account for changes in the ministry environment.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – What Matters Now, Gary Hamel

This is not a book about one thing. It’s not a 250-page dissertation on leadership, teams or motivation. Instead, it’s an agenda for building organizations that can flourish in a world of diminished hopes, relentless change, and ferocious competition.

This is not a book about doing better. It’s not a manual for people who want to tinker at the margins. Instead, it’s an impassioned plea to reinvent management as we know it—to rethink the fundamental assumptions we have about capitalism, organizational life, and the meaning of work.

Obviously, there are lots of things that matter now. But in a world of fractured certainties and battered trust, some things matter more than others. While the challenges facing organizations are limitless; leadership bandwidth isn’t. That’s why you have to be clear about what really matters now. What are the fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead.
Solution #8: The Horizon Storyline allows for unseen changes. 


Many classic strategic plans assume that the immediate future will resemble the recent past. Anyone alive in the 21st century knows that this assumption is no longer valid. We simply must be ready to adapt to major changes in our world from culture and politics to communication and technology.

I’ve never met a leader who swears allegiance to the status quo, and yet few organizations seem capable of proactive change.

The Christian church in its various forms, and the great universities it spawned, have proven to be some of humanity’s most durable institutions. From the beginning, they have been missional at their core – but as change accelerates, they will have to become even more so.

As institutions mature, the positive thrust of mission diminishes and the pull of habit strengthens – until one day, the organization can no longer escape the gravitational field of its own legacy.

What’s true of churches is true for other institutions: the more “organized” and tightly “managed” they are, the less adaptable they are. Not surprisingly, the most resilient thing on the planet, the Web, is loosely organized and lightly managed, and so was the first century Christian church. The lesson here? To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become a bit more disorganized and unmanaged – less structured, less hierarchical, and less routinized.

Gary Hamel, What Matters Now


On a chart tablet, make three columns:

  • Things we are presently doing, but should stop
  • Things the church should be doing
  • Things we are doing well

Take 15 minutes for the team to individually consider these categories. Have each person select his or her top two in each category and write their initials by them on the chart tablet. Do not allow comments until everyone is done and the list is complied.

Talk through each item and rank the list. Be sure to include the “whys” and “why nots” in your discussions. After the exercise, discuss what action steps, if any, should be taken.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 48-3, published July 2016.

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. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Habits of Successful Innovators

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

– Gary Hamel. What Matters Now

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

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

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

That would include leaders in ChurchWorld.

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

What Matters Now

Five Types of Innovators

Gary Hamel, writing in his book What Matters Now, has an intriguing theory on five types of innovators.


Rockets are young companies that have been boosted aloft by wacky new business models. Recent examples include Hulu, which delivers TV shows via the Web and Spotify, a music streaming service. None of these upstarts has yet been challenged to reinvent its business model – a test that history suggests many of them will fail. Like a child star whose fame dims as the years advance, many innovative organizations will become less so as they mature. However, it is worth paying attention to these streakers. While they don’t have much to teach us about how to build systematically innovative organizations, their game-changing strategies often illuminate important new categories of business model innovation.


Laureates are companies that innovate year after year, but in narrow, technologically oriented domains. They spend billions of dollars on R & D and employ thousands of super smart team members. This group is represented by General Electric, Intel, Samsung, Microsoft and Cisco. The laureates show up regularly on “most innovative” lists, and also dominate the rankings for most patents won. Inventive as the are, the laureates are a bit one-dimensional – they’re great at pushing out the frontiers of science, but are not always so good at innovation in other areas. Nevertheless, if you want to learn something about maximizing R&D productivity, the laureates plenty to teach.


The artistes comprise a much smaller category of innovation heroes. These organizations are in the creativity business – innovation is their primary product.  IDEO, BMW DesignWorks, and Grey New York are representative of this group. Everything about them – the way they hire, develop talent, and organize their work spaces – has been designed to provoke lateral leaps of genius. Most companies don’t have the luxury of focusing exclusively on innovation. They have to innovate while taking care of business –  like selling widgets or processing sales transactions. Your company may never be an innovator’s paradise, but you should be able to weave creative thinking into the mix and move the status quo out a little.


Cyborgs are companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple – they seem to have been purpose-built to achieve superhuman feats of innovation. Long ago they left the industrial-age DNA behind, and function on management practices that have been built around principles like freedom, meritocracy, transparency, and experimentation. Cyborgs are innovative on multiple dimensions and are going to be on next year’s “most innovative” list – and the one after that. While cyborgs make most organizations feel like they’re mired in mud, you have to remember that your organization wasn’t built from the ground up to be innovative.

Born-Again Innovators

There are a few geriatrics out there who’ve cracked the innovation code. Known as born-again innovators, they are represented by Procter and Gamble, IBM, and Ford. They have been top-down behemoths who found themselves outmaneuvered time and again by less orthodox upstarts. Eventually, they saw the light and set about reordering their priorities and reassessing lifelong habits. It was not an easy process, requiring a complete retooling of a company’s management processes. To out-innovate the upstarts, a company must reengineer all of the typical management rituals that have been around for decades, replacing them with bold thinking and radical doing.

Is it possible to have innovation in ChurchWorld?

It is not only possible – it will be necessary to survive the tumultuous changes we find ourselves in. Your church may not make a product or provide a service like the organizations listed above, but you should be able to learn from the different types of innovators listed above – and apply that learning to your organization.

inspired by and adapted from What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

What Matters Now

It’s Time to Change the Way We Change

We’re going through a great new series at my church, Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, called “The New Rules of Resolution – Changing the Way We Change.” The first rule: It’s not a project, it’s a process. The second rule: It’s not achieving, it’s receiving. To listen to the current message, go here.

It’s a great topic for the new year, and it’s brought to mind a blog series I did last year on “Change.” The message yesterday reminded me of this particular post – I hope you find it helpful.


In our generation the rate of change has gone hypercritical.

Change has changed.

Other centuries were convulsed by famine, disease, and war, but never before have so many things been changing so rapidly. We live in a world that seems to be all punctuation and no equilibrium, where the future is less and less and extrapolation of the past. Change is multifaceted, relentless, seditious, and occasionally shocking. In this maelstrom, long-lived political dynasties, venerable institutions, and hundred year old business models are all at risk.

Today the most important question for any organization is this: Are we changing as fast as the world around us? In industry after industry, it’s the insurgents, not the incumbents, who’ve been surfing the waves of change. But they, too, are just as vulnerable to change as their victims. Success has never been more fleeting.

Given all this, the only thing that can be safely predicted is that sometime soon your organization will be challenged to change in ways for which it has no precedent. Your organization will either adapt or falter, rethink its core assumptions or fumble the future – and to be honest, a fumble is the most likely outcome.

Of course, change brings both promise and peril, but the proportion facing any particular organization depends on its capacity to adapt. And therein lies the problem: our organizations were never built to be adaptable.

Especially the church.

Honest leaders will look at the Church, and more importantly their church, and see the words above lived out all too often. Churches are built as organizations of discipline, not resiliency. Efficient ministry comes from routinizing the nonroutine, adapting a management philosophy to the real life of people. As the old saying goes, the 7 words of a dying church are “We’ve always done it that way before.”

Adaptability, on the other hand, requires a willingness to occasionally abandon those routines – but in the church, there are precious few incentives to do so. So especially in ChurchWorld, change tends to come in only two varieties: the trivial and the traumatic. A review of the average church’s history will produce long periods of incremental fiddling punctuated by occasional bouts of frantic, crisis-driven change.

It’s time to change the way we change.

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 9/19/12

How to Thrive in Turbulent Times

From What Matters Now, by Gary Hamel:

In the first and second centuries, the Christian church was communal, organic, and unstructured – a lot like the Web today. Within the Roman Empire, the Christian church grew from a handful of believers in AD 40 to over 31 million adherents by AD 350, making it the world’s first viral organization. By contrast, today’s mainline churches are institutionally powerful, but spiritually weak.

What’s true for churches is true for other institutions: the more “organized” and tightly “managed” they are, the less adaptable they are. Not surprisingly, the most resilient thing on the planet, the Web, is loosely organized and lightly managed, and so was the first century Christian Church. The lesson here? To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become more disorganized and unmanaged – less structural, less hierarchical, and less routinized.

As institutions mature, the positive thrust of missions diminishes and the pull of habit strengthens – until one day, the organization can no longer escape the gravitational field of its own legacy.

No pastor would ever tell you that the goal of his or her church is to create a place where members can gather each week to be expertly entertained while congratulating themselves on their moral superiority. And yet this often seems to be the case.

Speaking to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit a few years ago, Hamel asked the crowd “Is there a difference between ‘doing church’ and ‘doing Jesus’?”

Following a positive response, he then asked, “So where do your loyalties lie? Is it with the mission of redemption and reconciliation, or with the traditional programs and policies of your church? And if it’s the first, how would people know? What would be the evidence? Wouldn’t it be your willingness to sacrifice some of these familiar practices on the altar of a bigger purpose?”


I’ve never met a leader who swears allegiance to the status quo, and yet few organizations seem capable of proactive change.

Gary Hamel

It’s impossible to build adaptable organizations without adaptable people – individuals who are humble, honest, and inspired.

Are you adaptable?

Change Without Trauma

As noted in yesterday’s post, change often comes in only two varieties: the trivial and the traumatic. Frantic, crisis-driven change is a poor substitute for timely transformation. There must be a better way.

We need look no further that our body’s automatic systems for some useful metaphors.

When you jump on a treadmill or pick up some weights, your heart starts to pump more blood, automatically. When you stand in front of a large audience to speak, your adrenal glands ramp us the production of adrenaline, spontaneously. When you walk from shade to bright sunlight, your pupils contract reflexively. Automatically, spontaneously, reflexively – these aren’t the words we use to describe how our organizations change, but they should be. That should be our goal: change without trauma.

In the mind flipping, VUCA world we live in, what matters is not merely an organization’s success at a point in time, but its evolutionary success over time. I recently remarked that being a part of my church’s rapid growth was like a “rocket ride” – and then a friend reminded me that rockets follow a parabolic path, and that the satellites they launch into space ultimately come back to earth in a flaming shower of debris. Ouch!

How do you keep an organization – like your church – in “orbit?” Building a truly adaptable organization is a lot of work. It requires a shift in aspirations, behaviors, and operating systems.

  • An adaptable organization rethinks its strategy without having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death; it reinvents itself before getting mugged by the future.
  • An adaptable organization is one that captures more than its fair share of new opportunities. It’s always redefining itself, always pioneering the new.
  • An adaptable organization is more successful in attracting and retaining talent; it will have team members who are more engaged, more excited to show up every day, and are enthusiastic about their work.
  • An adaptable organization will be more productive in responding to emerging “customer” needs. It will take the lead in redefining customer expectations in positive ways.

Building a church that is as resilient as it is efficient may be the most fundamental organizational challenge facing today’s ChurchWorld leaders.

Adaptability really matters now.

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 9/19/12