Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret (part 2)

I love reading Larry Osborne. He’s a pastor I really admire. Yesterday, I posted ten quotes summarizing the first half of his book “Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret.” For those interested, here are ten more quotes from the second half of the book. The book is about change and leadership.

Osborne Book

  • Broad buy-in is almost impossible to get on the front end of any significant innovation or change… So-called mid-adopters won’t buy into a new idea until they know who else is for it. Late adopters won’t buy into a new idea until everyone else is for it. Insisting on buy-in (or searching for it) is an exercise in futility. Serial innovators don’t seek buy-in. They seek permission. They know they can’t get buy-in on the front end of something that is genuinely new or different. So they simply ask, “Can we try this?” They know that such permission is relatively easy to get, even when people think your idea is crazy or has no way of working. As long as they don’t have to put their name on it or pay for it, most people will say, “Fine, go ahead.” (p. 108)
  • We tend to forget or take for granted fortuitous timing and divine coincidences, and the important role that people and things completely out of our control played in our success. The view through the rearview mirror can be a bit fuzzy. That’s where arrogance creeps in. As soon as we think that our success was all of our own doing and that we could do it over again if given the opportunity, we stop listening. We no longer learn. We pontificate… It turns an entire organization into a late adopter of anything that’s not homegrown… IBM once received 70% of all money spent on computer purchases. GM once dominated 60% of the US auto market. Sony once controlled the market for personal portable music. CompuServe and Prodigy once battled for control of the internet. Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns were investment giants, and they disappeared overnight. Most of the largest churches from fifty years ago have little influence today. These weren’t stupid people. They were simply blinded by their success. They overtrusted the recipe. (page 109, 100, 115)
  • Sooner or later, every leader hits the wall. Every organization and leadership team runs up against barriers that they cannot seem to overcome. What used to work well no longer works so well – or it no longer works at all… Hitting this wall can usually be traced back to one of three things: (1) we’ve outgrown our leadership skills, (2) our organization has outgrown its structures, or (3) we’ve been blindsided by a cultural shift we never saw coming. The first step in breaking through is to figure out which one it is. (pp. 119-120)
  • This doesn’t mean that what appears to be a leader’s ceiling is always his or her actual ceiling. Training and hard work can push us beyond what we thought we were capable of doing. But eventually we’ll reach our real ceiling. And when we do, nothing can take us beyond it. (p. 120)
  • A second reason why organizations hit the wall is because they’ve outgrown their structures. The way we do things often puts a lid on the things we can do. No organization can outgrow the ceiling of its policies, procedures, and practices. For instance, when our church was small, we had a policy of holding congregational meetings to make major decisions. We’d have a meeting and ask everyone to vote on the issues at hand. It worked well. It created buy-in and accountability. But as we grow, that policy became a lid. To say it got unwieldy would be an understatement. Today, with well over nine thousand people… it would not only be unwieldy; it would be impossible. We’d have to rent a sports arena to pull it off. Imagine if we had not been able to jettison that policy (and many others that were designed for a neighborhood church of a few hundred). Our growth would have hit an impenetrable wall. There’s no way we could have moved beyond it. At best we would have capped out at a couple of thousand people each weekend. Organizational structures are like gravity. They can be temporarily overcome with lots of ingenuity. But eventually they will win. They always do. That’s why organizations always settle in at a size that perfectly matches their policies, procedures, and structures.  (pp. 123-124)
  • When I first brought our leadership team lessons and insights from the business world, they fell on deaf ears. Some folks wanted a Bible verse for everything. They rejected powerful answers not on their own merits but on their pedigree. They said things like, “The church is not a business.” I agreed. The church is not a business. But the moment we outgrew the home we started in, we were an organization. And businesses know an awful lot about organizations and systems, much of which churches need to know. Frankly, I know the Bible well. But I’ve yet to find the verses that deal with hiring practices, parking problems, administrative workflow, or negotiating a lease. Maybe I just missed them. I don’t know. (p. 133)
  • Spoiler alert. Changing the relational rules of the game can be a bit scary. For some folks, it’s terrifying. But if you’ve hit a wall of unrealistic relational expectations, changing the relational rules of the game and working through the fallout is the only way to break through to the next level. Sometimes you simply have to change the rules or lose… (For example) In a small church, people rightfully expect nearly instant access to their pastor. They expect to be known by name, to be counseled, married, and buried by whoever speaks on Sunday. It’s the relational paradigm of a small church. But as a church grows larger, it becomes nearly impossible for a pastor to meet those same expectations. It’s no longer realistic for him to know every name and to counsel, marry, and bury everybody connected to the church. If he tries, he’ll soon be the one needing counseling. In one sense, everybody gets that. They know that the pastor of a growing church can’t possibly meet every need. Most members of a growing congregation are good with that. As long as he meets their needs, performs their weddings, and counsels them through their crisis, they’ll be more than happy. It reminds me of something a mentor once told me. “Larry,” he said, ‘Everyone will tell you to slow down, but nobody really means it, especially if it impacts your relationship with them.” (pp. 134-135)

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