Generation Flux Revisited

One of the greatest challenges of 21st century leadership is that the world we were raised and trained in no longer exists.

Robert Safian, Editor, Fast Company

Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts about a feature article in Fast Company magazine entitled Generation Flux:

Generation Flux was a term coined by Fast Company magazine Editor Robert Safian. It describes the people who will thrive best in today’s environment. It is a psychographic, not a demographic – you can be any age and be GenFlux. The characteristics of a GenFluxer are clear: an embrace of adaptability and flexibility; an openness to learning from anywhere; decisiveness tempered by the knowledge that organizational life today can shift radically in a short time period.

In the November issue, Safian has written a great follow-up feature, Secrets of the Flux Leader.

According to Safian, “we have grown up with certain assumptions about what works in an enterprise, what the metrics for success are, how we organize and deploy resources. The bulk of those resources are wrong now. The clarity of words we use to discuss business, standbys like marketplace and competitive advantage, are being redefined and rendered almost meaningless.”

It’s the same for ChurchWorld, too. 

Following a single system or outmoded model is foolhardy – churches that are successful in understanding and accomplishing their vision will be nimble and ever-changing.

Attempting to minister in today’s world is nothing if not paradoxical. Churches must be both efficient and transparent; thrifty and ambitious; nimble and stable. Churches and other organizations based on traditional stable structure and management models are not equipped for these dualities.

Generation Flux leaders are the ones who will steer their organizations toward more sophisticated models needed to survive – and thrive – in today’s world.

Are you a GenFluxer?

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Social Media and the Divinity School Student

100 years ago when I was in graduate school at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary…

Okay, it wasn’t 100 years ago, only 31. The pace of change just makes it seem like 100 years.

Anyway, my version of Facebook was a hardcopy directory of all students, printed the first few weeks of each school year (we called it the Funny Book, for obvious reasons). Mail (including tests and papers) was hand-delivered in post office boxes. Research was done in a physical place (library) using objects (books) resulting in papers (typed on a typewriter). GASP!

Today, it’s a little different.

My daughter is beginning her final year of the M Div program at Campbell University Divinity School. She also works part-time as Communications Coordinator for the North Carolina WMU. She is also beginning her second year as a Resident Chaplain for a couple of freshmen girl’s dorms. She loves her life!

Because of my past history at a divinity school and serving on a church staff, and now in a consulting role to church leaders, we often have interesting conversations.

Like the one that followed this question: “How are students at the Div School and in your circle of influence using social media?” Here is her reply:

The divinity school uses it to post pictures of what’s going on during the week at school, serious stuff and fun stuff too, like birthdays’ of professors and when the staff and students are goofing off, or there is a social event, like today, there is a div school tailgating thing after class before the football game. They use Facebook and twitter. Admissions has their own Facebook page along with the Div school itself. They also use it when they go to conferences to announce they are there and if other Campbell people are there, they use it to find them at those conferences and places and such. They post lots of pictures.

Personally, each of the dorms I work with have a Facebook group page so I am a part of that to keep up with events and announcements (keep up with issues in the dorm that the residence life staff have to address) and what official events and unofficial events are going on to go to and get to know the residents. The residents that I am friends with, I keep an eye on their statuses and stuff and if I notice something is wrong and there seems to be a hint of something not right, I make sure to check on them and see how they are doing. Sometimes, Facebook statuses are more informational than just talking with them casually in the hallways and stuff on campus!

One of my dorms LOVES Twitter. The RAs, RD, and residents tweet ALL the time and have conversations with each other. That’s another way I keep up with what’s going on and stay connected. In fact, this dorm is having a program event this semester that is a twitter scavenger hunt. They will have a list of stuff to find and instead of just taking pictures and showing everybody, they will tweet the pics with a hashtag. Whoever finishes with the most items on the list wins, and if there is a tie, then the earliest timestamp on tweet wins! I thought this was an interesting way to use social media to have a dorm event

Ironically, each dorm program has to fit into a certain category and this one is a physical event, because it’s making them get out and walk around campus even though they are using technology and  the Internet to show it!

Just a snapshot of how social media is used in my life! 🙂

Absolutely fascinating.

Okay ChurchWorld leaders, are you paying attention?

 

If you liked this post, you might also be interested in these:

Introducing the Scrum to ChurchWorld

During the course of the past week’s posts I have journeyed from Generation Flux to Adaptability to Nostalgia to Agile Development to a new destination: the Scrum.

It’s actually all part of the same journey: 1) realizing tomorrow is not going to be like yesterday, and 2) What am I as a leader going to do about it?

Back to the Scrum. As a parent of four children, I have been involved in many sports, some for fun, more that were in a league setting. About three years ago, my youngest son-at that time a junior in high school-came home and said he had signed up for the rugby team at school.

 

Okay. New experience, new opportunity for learning.

 

 

In rugby, a scrum is a formalized contest for possession of the ball during a rugby game between the two sets of forwards who each assemble in a tight-knit formation with bodies bent and arms clasped around each other and push forward together against their opponents.

Hold that thought.

Yesterday I suggested that an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld needs to be developed. In my research to do just that, what do I encounter but a Scrum – but with a new definition:

In the agile world a scrum is a process framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Learning from the World of Business Bankruptcy and Software Development

Kodak, the iconic company that was synonymous with pictures, has declared bankruptcy.

When that news came out last week, I knew I would be getting around to connecting it to ChurchWorld. James Emery White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, already has: What Business Are You In? is a great post that every ChurchWorld leader needs to read.

As soon as I had finished reading it, my thoughts went back to the Generation Flux cover story from Fast Company that I posted here, here, and here last week. There were several topics that I had marked in it for future research, and one of them ties in nicely to the bankruptcy announcement by Kodak and White’s post.

It’s about being agile.

I’m not talking exclusively about physical agility, the ability to move quickly and with suppleness, skill, and control; I’m not talking only about mental agility, the ability to be able to think quickly and intelligently. It’s really a combination of the two, and more.

Software development used to be developed by what chaos expert DJ Patil called the “waterfall” process:

One group develops the product, another builds visual mockups…and finally a set of engineers builds it to some specification document.

Think Microsoft and their practice of having a designated schedule of issuing large, finished releases of their products (Windows 95, Windows 2000, etc.). Today that process has given way to “agile” development, what Patil calls “the ability to adapt and iterate quickly throughout the product life cycle.” In today’s software world, that concept follows the precepts of “The Agile Manifesto,” a 2001 document written by a group of developers who stated a preference for:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • responding to change over following a plan

Maybe it’s time for an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld.

If Only Things Were Like They Used To Be

Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we’ve learned and relying on what’s worked before.

It’s also about as useful as an appendix right now.

That quote is from Fast Company Editor Robert Safian, writing the cover story “Generation Flux” for the February 2012 issue. He goes on to add:

When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seemed simpler, and we have the urge to recreate them. This impulse is as true for organizations  as for people. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved best practices may well be useless.

ChurchWorld, to a great extent, finds itself in that situation right now.

There are huge shifts occurring in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual fabric of our lives right now. That’s not new – change has always been a part of who we as humans are. But what’s different is the pace of change. It’s not just getting faster – it’s accelerating along an exponential curve.

And the response of ChurchWorld?

Put a fence around your facility and charge admission to a museum dedicated to the 1990s – or 1980s – or 1970s – or 1960s – or 1950s – or…

Oh, it’s not that blatant – but it is obvious.

It’s time to change.

My absolute favorite quote about change is from Will Rogers:

Will Rogers quote

To survive THRIVE in this age of flux, you have to claim what makes your church unique, what sets you apart from 10,000 other churches, what God has uniquely gifted your people to be and doHold onto that – and change any and every thing else that needs to be changed in order to live out God’s calling.

Efficiency – yes, Adaptability – no…

…Generation Flux to the rescue!

Fast Company’s February issue has a cover story and several articles about Generation Flux. Read yesterday’s post here for a quick summary. Better yet, go to the website here to read the whole article.

Need a little teaser? Here’s another quote from the lead article by editor Robert Safian:

The challenge they [traditional organizations] face is the same one staring down most of America, not to mention government, schools, and other institutions that have defined how we’ve lived. These organizations have structures and processes build for an industrial age, where efficiency is paramount but adaptability is terribly difficult.

Sound like any institution you know – say, ChurchWorld?

Dev Patnaik, cofounder and CEO of strategy firm Jump Associates adds the following:

In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.

If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can’t afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. It is also an imperative for organizations that want to survive: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable.

Can I get an amen to that? 

Generation Flux

In our hypernetworked, mobile, social, global world, the rules and plans of yesterday are increasingly under pressure; the enterprises and individuals that will thrive will be those willing to adapt and iterate, in a disciplined, unsentimental way.

The above quote by Fast Company magazine editor Robert Safian is the introduction to the cover story on Generation Flux. That cover story, plus several other articles, are a great primer to introduce you to Generation Flux.

Generation Flux is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mindset that embraces instability, that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, organizations and individuals will have to work at it.

Clarity evangelist Will Mancini, in a recent post, described five “tweaks” that ChurchWorld leaders need to practice in order to keep their ministry. They are just the kind of actions that Generation Flux can pull off.

Another powerful quote from Safian: “The vast bulk of our institutions – educational, corporate, political – are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”

To his list above, add ChurchWorld. Then ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”