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.





Unleash Your Team by Cultivating a Creative Spark

In our fast-paced digital life, church leadership teams need to be creative in order to deal with the changes coming their way today – or they risk irrelevancy tomorrow.

Creativity then, becomes a constant process for every ministry area of any church rather than an occasional requirement for the worship pastor at Christmas or only limited to those “creative” churches.

Like farmers and their crops, leaders cannot dictate creativity, but they are called to cultivate creativity. Thinking and acting creatively doesn’t just happen because a leader desires it or orders it to happen. With the right environment, resources, mindset, and vision, your team will be able to develop the required motivation to be creative on their own.

If you desire to unleash the creativity of your team, try cultivating a creative spark.


THE QUICK SUMMARYCreative Confidence

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.”  But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every  one of us is creative.

In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems.  Creative Confidence can your team be more productive and successful in fulfilling their responsibilities.


French chemist Louis Pasteur is quoted as saying “Chance favors the trained mind.” You can lead your team to think the same way, by being prepared to be creative.

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your efforts to encourage your team’s creativity could be as simple as a change in perspective, or as complex as a new working environment. It’s probably going to be somewhere in-between.

The point is, your team’s creativity can be influenced by specific actions you take. Their claim to fame probably won’t be on the same level as discovering the principles of vaccination or pasteurization, but it could be just as meaningful to your organization.

Sometimes, your team just needs a spark to fire up their creativity.

The creative spark needed to come up with new solutions is something you have to cultivate, over and over again. One way to begin is to consciously increase the inspiration you encounter in your daily life.

Effective strategies to help you get from blank page to insight include:

Choose Creativity – To be more creative, the first step is to decide what you want to make it happen.

Think like a Traveler – Like a visitor to a foreign land, try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings, no matter how mundane or familiar. Don’t wait around for a spark to magically appear. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences.

Engage Relaxed Attention – Flashes of insight often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task, allowing the mind to make new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

Empathize with Your End User – You com up with more innovative ideas when yo better understand the needs and context of the people you are creating solutions for.

Do Observations in the Field – If you observe others with the skills of an anthropologist, you might discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.

Ask Questions, Starting with “Why?” – A series of “why?” questions can brush past surface details and get to the heart of the matter.

Reframe Challenges – Sometimes, the first step toward a great solution is to reframe the question. Starting from a different point of view can help you get to the essence of a problem.

Build a Creative Support Network – Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off.

– Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence


At your next team meeting, review the list of strategies above. Select one activity that you will lead your team in each week. Have each team member note how they are applying the principle individually in a personal creativity journal.

Each week, devote 30 minutes of your team meeting to discussing that week’s strategy.

  • How has the strategy worked in improving team creativity?
  • What new directions has the strategy unveiled?
  • What current activities has the strategy revealed that need to be “stopped”?
  • How could the strategy be modified to improve creativity even more?
  • How will your team adopt this strategy into their creative cycle, without it getting “stale?”

At the end of the 8-seek experiment, schedule a one-hour meeting with your team to decide and commit on strategies that will become a regular part of their creative process.

At periodic occasions throughout the year, check-in with the team to see how the strategies are working, or if they need to be modified or abandoned.


Closing Thoughts

Creativity and innovation are the life blood of a thriving ministry. But even the most creative team can become stale or fall into a rut of the same old same old. Your actions as a leader will determine if your team stays the same, or is constantly reinventing itself.

Taken from SUMS Remix, Issue 15-1, May, 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.

The Spaces of Design Thinking

Design thinkers know that there is no one “best way” to move through the process.

The continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. You can think of them as:

  • Inspiration – the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions
  • Ideation – the process of generating, developing, and testing
  • Implementation – the path that leads from the project room to the market

Projects may loop back through these spaces more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions.

The reason for the iterative, nonlinear nature of the journey is not that design thinkers are disorganized or undisciplined but that design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process; done right it will invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way, and it would be foolish not to find out where they lead.

– Tim Brown, Change by Design

Leaders in ChurchWorld need to be design thinkers…

What spaces are you moving through today?

Prototyping is a State of Mind

It’s a given that the award-winning design firm IDEO utilizes prototyping in their quest to fulfill a client’s request for a better shopping cart or when creating the mouse for Apple.

But how does this help when innovation isn’t a daily ritual? And what if your organization doesn’t make things, but provides a service? And what if your organization is a church?

Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve got all the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a little, but then making it right.

Prototyping is a state of mind.

In the book “The Art of Innovation, IDEO general manager Tim Kelley outlines some of the key principles of prototyping the firm has developed over the years:

  • Build to learn – when a project is complex, prototyping is a way of making progress when problems seem insurmountable
  • Make your luck – once you start prototyping, you begin to open up new possibilities of discovery
  • Prototypes beat pictures – living, moving prototypes can help shape your ideas
  • Bit by bit – don’t go for the touchdown all in one play; work on your project in stages, getting approval and/or revisions done in steps. Keep the momentum going
  • Shoot the bad ideas first – don’t stop when you’re stuck; prototyping even an unworkable solution often generates new ideas

A playful, iterative approach to problems is one of the foundations of the creative culture at IDEO. It can be at your organization, too.

So, what are you going to prototype today?



Brainstorming, IDEO Style

The problem with brainstorming is that everyone thinks they already do it.

IDEO, the award-winning design and development firm known around the world for their creative solutions to everyday problems, begs to differ.

In the book “The Art of Innovation,” IDEO general manager Tom Kelley shows how you can deliver more value, create more energy, and foster more innovation through better brainstorming.

Seven Secrets for Better Brainstorming

  • Sharpen the focus – good brainstormers start with a well-honed statement of the problem
  • Playful rules – don’t start to critique or debate ideas
  • Number your ideas – it’s a tool to motivate the participants and it’s a great way to jump back and forth between ideas without losing your place
  • Build and jump – try building on an idea by encouraging another push or introducing a small variation; or take a jump, either back to an earlier path or forward to a completely new idea
  • The space remembers – great brainstorm leaders understand the power of spatial memory. Use tools that allow you to write all ideas down, and as you move around the room, spatial memory will help people recapture the mind-set they had when the idea first emerged
  • Stretch your mental muscles – mental warm ups (word games, content-related homework, etc.) will help you get in shape for better brainstorming
  • Get physical – the best brainstormers often get physical; they bring in “props,” prototype designs with materials, and act out possible solutions

Got a problem that’s bugging you?

Find a suitable space, order some supplies, get a good group together, and brainstorm up several dozen possible solutions.


Innovation Begins with an Eye

What do stand-up toothpaste tubes, all-in-one fishing kits, high-tech blood analyzers, flexible office shelves, self-sealing sports bottles, and the Apple mouse have in common?

courtesy IDEO

courtesy IDEO

Only that they’re all products designed by the legendary firm IDEO; products inspired by watching real people.

As IDEO human factors expert Leon Segal says in “The Art of Innovation” -“Innovation begins with an eye.”

It’s not just about product design, either.Whether it’s art, science, technology, or business, inspiration often comes from being close to the action. Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up.

Here are a few IDEO practices you should think about:

  • No dumb questions – don’t think you know the answers without first asking the questions
  • Look through the child’s eye – literally, if you want to understand what they are seeing, touching, and feeling; figuratively, if you understand that the best designs embrace people’s differences
  • Inspiration by observation – open your eyes and you’ll be awakened to opportunities to improve things without leaving your office
  • Embrace your crazy user – good, insightful observation combines careful watching with well-chosen questions asked to get at the psychology of a person’s interactions
  • Finding rule breakers – you learn best when observing people who break the rules
  • People are human – sometimes we reduce personal interactions to numbers and statistics. Empathy is about rediscovering why you’re actually in business, whom you’re trying to serve, and what needs you are trying to fulfill.

Seeing and hearing things with your own eyes and ears is a critical first step in improving or creating a breakthrough in your organization.

Try it today!