Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gen Y at Your Church

I was listening to a great presentation today by Kam Hunt, the associate pastor for Jr. High youth at Gateway Community Church in Dallas. His topic was Generation Y, and what the impact of this generational cohort would mean for church leaders.

It was a great (albeit brief) review of what's going on in the minds of that generation of young teen- 30s, and what that means for ministry leaders. It reminded me of a list that Beloit College puts out every year - items that go into the formation of the mindset of the entering college freshmen class.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Emeritus Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. It is used around the world as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation. It is widely reprinted and the Mindset List website here receives more than 400,000 hits annually.

Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since "digital" has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them. A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

Read the whole list by following the link above - and then, ask yourself "How am I preparing myself as a leader to minister with this generation?"
Two questions for you:

So what?

Now what?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Attitude Adjustment for Your E-Mail

Want kinder, gentler e-mails?

The ToneCheck plug-in for Microsoft Outlook scans outgoing e-mail messages and flags wording that could be interpreted as harsh, angry, or offensive.

Not only does it flag curse words, it also detects subtler forms of agression.

Read about it in the link above, or take a look at the October issue of Inc. magazine.

Oh - and read your emails ALOUD if you think they may be a little on the harsh side.

Just saying...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Depth - and Simplicity - of Scripture

At Elevation Church we are in week 3 of the "Sun Stand Still" series. After the 24 hour preaching marathon Pastor Steven did last Tuesday, I thought he might reel it in a little, or have a guest speaker.


Pastor Steven delivered, big time.

Recounting the story of Jairus' daughter who was raised from the dead (after another miracle), he taught us that the enemy plants seeds of doubt when we are seeking an audacious move of God.

Here are some of the phrases that I have read dozens of times from the Mark 5 passage:
- Why bother?
- Ignoring what they said
- Just believe
- They laughed at him
- After he put them out

Today they have a richer meaning. I'm not even going to try to explain. Just go to elevationexperience.com anytime (literally - 24/7) at the top of the hour and you can hear it for yourselves.

You'll be glad you did - and you will be able to shut out the cruel, cold voices that tell you "Why bother?"Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Miracle of Life

Lucy Elise Adams
6 lbs 14 oz
19 inches
3:45 AM
September 23, 2010

Mom and daughter doing great!
Dad is grinning ear to ear.
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McDonalds - The New Community Center?

Iconic McDonalds is at it again: they are reinventing themselves once again - this time from a design perspective.

The October issue of "Fast Company" magazine has several fascinating articles on how the company that practically invented fast food is now immersed in revolutionary changes in design.

  • "McDonald's Design Heritage" shows how the fast food giant has built its success on ideas that bubble up from anywhere
  • "Super Style Me" - inside the $2.4 billion dollar plan to change the way you think about the most iconic restaurant on the planet
  • "Where's Ronald McDonald" - inside the disappearance of one of the 20th century's most recognizable brands
"If you have a restaurant that is appealing, contemporary, and relevant," says McDonald's president Don Thompson, "the food tastes better."

Denis Weil, McDonald's VP of concept and design, says that the new styles of design fit perfectly into McDonald's everyman aesthetic. Calling it a community center, he means that McDonald's is one of the few places cheap and casual enough to be accessible to nearly everyone.

"There are very few public places left where private things happen," according to Weil. At the Innovation Center, a test lab for concepts of all kinds, there is a mock restaurant divided into four "seating zones," each designed for a different activity - chilling out, working, casual dining, and group events.

"Dialing up the design in a restaurant makes it a little stronger," Weil says, "but it will lose freshness faster, so we have to update more frequently."

Read all the articles above - then grab a Caramel Frappe' at your local McCafe, and imagine the relevancy for your organization.

And you can still get fries with that...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Think Visual

I'm not an artist, but I'm a big fan of visual thinking. Dan Roam's book "The Back of the Napkin" has provided an ongoing lesson in visual thinking for me.

This month's Wired magazine has a great article by Clive Thompson entitled "Think Visual." It poses this thought:

The best way to solve complicated problems might be to draw them

Thompson was in the process of buying a new laptop this summer, and he faced a blizzard of choices. After hours of web searches, reading reviews, and pages of choices, the options were baffling.

His solution? He picked up  one of his son's Crayolas, drew doodles of all the laptop choices, and covered them with icons of the pros and cons of each. When he stood back and looked at the pictures, the answer jumped out at him.

That's visual thinking - drawing pictures to solve a problem.

Sure, it may be helpful for a "simple" problem like buying a laptop. But what about dynamic, complicated problems - like economic reforms, world health issues, etc. Roam thinks that these problems can't be boiled down to a narrative. In these situations, drawing a picture can clarify what's going on.

It's time to re-think pictures - crayons, pencils, or iPad. Maybe the solution to your greatest problem is just a few sketches away.

Ready to draw?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The "3H Model" of Success

Tom Peter's brilliantly simple writing continues to amaze me as I read through his book "The Little Big Things." Consider the following:

The 3Hs:

1. Howard, as in Schultz - the founder of Starbucks. He took a cup of coffee and turned it into a business of over 10,000 shops worldwide. He has a great leadership team, and they convey the importance of what Starbucks is all about throughout the organization.

Yet the boss visits a minimum of 25 shops per week. He believes you have to see the real deal up close with all your senses.

2. There has never been a more prominent and successful hotelier than Conrad Hilton. Once, at a gala honoring his career, he was called to the podium to share his success secrets.

Standing formally at the podium, he intoned: "Remember to tuck the shower curtain inside the bathtub." He then went quietly back to his seat.

3. In 2009, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines held their annual meetings on the same day in Dallas, headquarters to both airlines. The Allied Pilots Association picketed American's headquarters. The Southwest meeting marking founder Herb Kelleher's retirement. The Southwest's pilots' union took out full page ads in papers across the country thanking Herb for his years of service.

Like Hilton, Herb was asked to reveal his secrets for running the most successful airline (and one of the most admired businesses) in the world. A one-liner, only eight words, consistent for years: "You have to treat your employees like customers."

Bottom line from the 3Hs:

  1. Stay in touch (Howard)
  2. Sweat the details (Hilton)
  3. People first (Herb)
Stop right now. Think back over the last 24 hours in your organization. On a scale of 1-10, how do you rate on each of the 3H elements?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Practice Innovation...

...whenever you can.

It's time to wrap up "Innovation Week," a look at some of the best innovation practices of IDEO, the award-winning, celebrated design firm. Tom Kelly, general manager of IDEO, has captured the essence of what the firm is all about in his book "The Art of Innovation." Even though it's been around for almost 10 years, I find myself coming back to it time and again to get a refresher on this thing called "innovation."

Kelley closes out his book with a simple but powerful list of innovation practice tips that IDEO has refined over the years. His advice is to "try jotting these down in your own words and posting them around your workplace. Above all, practice them whenever you can." Did you get that?

Innovation has to be practiced to be effective.

It's not a one time thing.

It's not something just for the management team.

It's not optional for your organization.

Here are Kelley's "innovation practice tips."
  • Watch customers - and non customers - especially enthusiasts (note to church leaders: yes, you have customers)
  • Play around with your physical workplace in a way that sends positive "body language" to employees and guests
  • Think "verbs," not "nouns," in your service offerings so that you create wonderful experiences for everyone who comes into contact with your organization or brand
  • Break rules and "fail forward" so that change is part of the culture, and little setbacks are expected (John Maxwell is smiling!)
  • Stay human, scaling your organizational environment so that there's room for hot groups to emerge and thrive
  • Build bridges from one department to another, from your organization to your prospective customers, and ultimately from the present to the future
Try it yourself. Innovation isn't about perfection. Get out of your cube/office/cave and observe your "market," your customers, and your services. Brainstorm like crazy and prototype in bursts. Assemble your own version of "The A Team," then turn them loose on your problem.

Prepare to be amazed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Great Projects are Achieved by Great Teams

...but not just any old teams. Organizations may be all about groups and teamwork, but most of the time these are simply a collection of people who once had vaguely-defined objectives. Inertia has taken over, and they only exist because no one has enough gumption to suggest otherwise.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are what design firm IDEO calls "hot project teams." They start with a clear goal and a serious deadline. They know they might disband after the goal is reached but reform when another problems pops up. They are infused with purpose and personality. They have a passion about doing great projects.


What does a hot group look like? IDEO general manager Tom Kelley, writing in "The Art of Innovation," thinks these characteristics are present:
  • They are totally dedicated to achieving the end result
  • They face down ridiculous deadlines
  • They are irreverent and nonhierarchial
  • They are well-rounded and respectful of diversity
  • They work in open, eclectic space optimal for flexibility, group work, and brainstorming
  • They feel empowered to go get whatever else is needed
  • They love a challenge
  • They find ways to leap barriers
  • They answer questions with actions instead of words
Teams should be ground zero for innovation in your organization. But always remember they start with individuals. There are plenty of extraordinary people at your place. Match them to projects, challenge them, and give them a chance to blossom - then back off and watch them blow you away with results.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Innovation Begins with an Eye

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

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!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jack and the Reading Bear

What's the best thing to do on a rainy-day Saturday?

Visit the bookstore, ride the reading bear, pick out some new books for GrandBob and Nina to read, and get a surprise for Mommy and Daddy

Go to Taco Bell for lunch.

Life is good for a 2 1/2 year old!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Art and Science of Cooking

From an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America:

Cooking is an inexact science, and this is where the art comes in. You've got standard ratios that work up to a point. There are always variables, as far as: Did you cook all the roux out? How high was your cooking temperature? How much evaporation did you have? How much did it reduce? You have to take all those things into account, and see what your final product is, and figure out how to fix it. You have to be not so stressed out or under pressure that you can say "I know it's not right and I need to fix it."

"You can't ever send a product out if it's not right," he continued. It doesn't matter how busy you are - your reputation is on the line every time you put a plate out. If you send it out hoping they won't notice, then that's the kind of chef you will be all your life.

"So. Start. Good habits. Early! Do it right. Take your time."

As Tom Peters would say:

If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?

Excellence is not a goal - it's the way we live, who we are.

What's up at your place, excellence-wise? Are you content with the same old, same old? Is is good enough? Or are you pursuing excellence?

Strive for excellence - ignore success.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good Cooking is Simply a Series of Problems Solved

The title of this post is actually a quote from one of the instructor chefs at the CIA's cooking school. Author Michael Ruhlman, in "The Making of a Chef" chronicles his time at the legendary cooking school, the oldest and most influentional in America.

The comment came in response to a student's unique suggestion of how to keep hollandaise sauce at just the right temperature to keep it from "breaking". The chef had never thought of his idea, and encouraged him (and the rest of the class) to approach a problem from a unique angle (outside the box" thinking?).

This line of thought falls right into a recent post by Seth Godin entitled "Sell the Problem." He noted that many business to business marketers tend to jump right into features and benefits, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem.

The challenge is this: if your organization doesn't think it has a  problem, you won't be looking for a solution. You won't wake up in the morning dreaming about how to solve it, or go to bed wondering how much it's costing you to ignore it.

And so the marketing challenge is to sell the problem.

I'm passionate about helping churches thrive by turning challenges (problems) into opportunities. It's very personal with me - I want to understand prospective clients so well that I know their situation almost as well as a leader or staff member. In fact, that statement, made a couple of years ago by a pastor, is one of the highlights of my career!

It's my job to understand their problems.

When a prospect comes to the table and says, "we have a problem," then you're both on the same side of the table when it comes time to solve it.

All I have to do now is follow the recipe - a series of problems solved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Use All Your Senses

American Bounty vegetable soup calls for ten vegetables, all of which require different cooking times synchronized to the same end time. The students at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) start with clarified butter in a pan and begin sweating leeks, then onions, and then garlic. The instructor makes a critical statement to the class:

"You're cooking with your eyes, you're cooking with your nose, you're cooking with your ears - all your senses."

At first, the vegetables sizzle in the butter - mostly raw, but on their way to being ready. Almost there - and finally, fully developed. Breathe in the aroma and you are amazed at the change.

Each stage was distinct and would alter the flavor of the final product. Celery and carrots, cut into perfect dimensions so they would cook uniformly. Corn, lima beans, turnips, and potatoes, added at the appropriate time and the result? A great soup, with distinct flavors, textures, and aromas.

It seems to me that ChurchWorld, in some ways, should be a lot like that soup. The experiences we create should engage all our senses in the right sequence and timing.

If your goal is to create a space and an experience that will positively impact people you must first plan and evaluate it from the perspective of its quality. You start that process by examining the daily places and routines in the offices, retail, and recreation spaces of the people you are trying to reach. The homes they live in, the offices they work in and the stores they shop in communicate a level of expectation they have for their space.

One subtle but powerful expression of this expectation is in our five classical senses: Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Leonardo da Vinci reflected sadly that the average human “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” How can the church capture the powerful experiences of our senses and utilize them in their facilities?

Maybe it takes a little "common sense."

Here’s where the “common sense” comes into play. Just like the business you frequent often, churches delivering experiences that exceed guest’s expectations are those to which people return, again and again, until they’re no longer guests but full-fledged members of the church community. When a guest thinks “Wow!” it is because he or she feels affirmed or valued. The church has said, “You matter.”

While you may not be trying to sell a product, your guest (and potential member) is very much “shopping” for a church. More important, they are shopping for a spiritual experience that addresses their personal needs. Why not make sure you do all in your power to make it happen?

Company’s coming – are you ready to “WOW” them? Use your common sense to engage all of your guest’s senses and their first impression will be a positive – and lasting one.

Friday, September 3, 2010


...the foundation for all classical French cooking.

At the CIA (that's Culinary Institute of America), you start off your three year education by learning how to peel vegetables and prepare a basic stock. You don't do it once - you do it every day during the three week rotation of the first class. Students move on after the first three weeks, but will continue to use the stock prepared by the next class of new students. Every three weeks, a new rotation of prospective chefs learn how to prepare stock.

A great stock is judged by:
  • Flavor
  • Clarity
  • Color
  • Body
  • Aroma
The perfect stock has what is referred to as a "neutral" flavor. This is a kind way of saying it doesn't taste like anything you're used to eating or would want to eat.

But you can do a million different things with a great stock because it has the remarkable quality of taking on other flavors without imposing a flavor of its own. It offers its own richness and body anonymously. When you reduce it, it becomes its own sauce starter. You can add roux to stock and create a demi-glace, and with a demi-glace, you can make over a hundred distinct sauces that define classic French cooking.

What's your stock?

Personally. Organizationally. However you want to define it. What's that basic "thing" you are, have, or do that makes everything else come together to make things happen?

Learn to make a basic stock, and the possibilities become endless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Emulate Chefs

This nugget comes from Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, writing in their book "Rework".

You've probably heard of Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Jacque Pepin, or Julia Child. They're great chefs, but there are a lot of great chefs out there. So why do you know these few better than others?

Because they share everything they know.

They put their recipes in cookbooks and show their techniques on cooking shows. They want you to take what they have developed and make it your own.

Great organizations should share everything they know, too. Don't be paranoid and secretive, but be open and generous.

A recipe is much easier to copy than a business idea. Shouldn't that scare someone like Mario Batali? Why would he go on TV and show you how he does what he does? Why would he put all his recipes in cookbooks where anyone can buy and replicate them?

Because he knows those recipes and techniques aren't enough to beat him at his own game. No one's going to buy his cookbook, open a restaurant next door, and put him out of business. It doesn't work like that, but many organizations think that's what will happen if others learn how they do things.

Emulate famous chefs. They cook, so they write cookbooks. What do you do? What are your "recipes"? What's your "cookbook"? What can you tell the world about how you operate that's informative, educational, and promotional?

What's cooking in your kitchen that you should share?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's on your plate?

I love food.

Eating it, sure, but also knowing how it's grown; where it came from (not just what I'm eating for supper, but how it came to be, over time, supper); what goes with what; how all the ethnic cuisines came to America and how they're changing our culture. Oh, and how it's made; what the history of some our favorite (and not so favorite) foods; what's healthy for me; what's not so healthy; why I like it anyway.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

My mother, a transplanted native of Missouri, learned the Southern cooking thing quite well. I have great memories of childhood meals - simple, but oh-so-good. Later in life, she became a caterer for small functions at church, for family and friends. Even today, on the other side of 80, all our family looks forward to her holiday meals.

My oldest son's second job, and every one since then, has revolved around food. From pizza baker to coffee house barista to small restaurant cook to line cook to pastry chef to kitchen manager and training chef, he is immersed in all things food. His siblings recognize it: they all like his food and request it when he gets a chance to cook.

My youngest son, on a whim, took a year-long culinary class as a junior in high school. He loved it so much he is taking another one as a senior. He brings home recipes and tries them out on Anita and I (which we really like). College is still an unknown, but culinary arts is a possibility.

Where I am going with this is that food, restaurants, being a chef, and all things connected are an interesting subject. There are also a lot of lessons to be learned from these areas that can be applied to other parts of life and work.

Let's go on a food journey...