Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting the Most Out of Reading

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is someone I respect a great deal. I first met him at Catalyst 2009 during a Backstage Pass luncheon hosted by Hyatt and Thomas Nelson. He is a great blogger and speaker, and has some great thoughts on how to get the most out of reading. Here are a few of these; for the complete version, I highly recommend you follow the links and read his entire post.

How to Read a Non-Fiction Book
  • Don’t feel that you need to finish-read till you lose interest; most books aren’t worth finishing
  • Start with the author bio-understanding more about the author helps you understand the book
  • Read the table of contents-leaning is often best when placed in context
  • Quickly scan the whole book-giving the book a quick glance, especially at illustrations, charts, etc. will help you understand what is ahead
  • Highlight important passages-mark anything that resonates with you for later action
  • Take notes in the front or margins-the act of committing your thoughts and reactions to what you are reading will help you recall it later
  • Use a set of note-taking symbols-see below
  • Dog-ear pages you want to revisit-bookmark the really, really important passages
  • Review the book and transfer actions to your to-do list-scan the book when finished for the key symbols mentioned above
  • Share the book’s message-if the message in the book resonates with you enough to read it, then share it with others
Recovering the Lost Art of Note Taking
  • Note-taking enables you to stay engaged with the book
  • Note-taking provides a mechanism for capturing your ideas, questions, and actions
  • Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later
  • If an item is particularly important or insightful, mark it with a star
  • If an item requires further research or resolution, mark it with a question mark
  • If an item requires follow-up, mark it with an open square
  • If an item requires action by someone else, mark it with an open circle
  • Schedule time to review your notes
How to Retain More of What You Read

Hyatt has developed a system of summarizing his reading. He is currently using it not only in his personal reading but in a mentoring group he started early in 2010. The exercise he uses forces him to distill key insights from the book and then determine what he is going to do differently as a result.

The format of his summary consists of:
  • Bibliographic heading-title, author, date
  • Quick summary-one paragraph, distilling the essence of the book
  • Key insights-Selected highlights from the book, with page numbers for further reference
  • Personal application-two or three things you will do differently as a result of the book
  • Meaningful quotes-any author worth reading is going to say things in a way that is worth remembering for later use
The key to the actions described above is to distill the entire book into one page (two if you add the section on Meaningful Quotes.)

The discipline of keeping it short makes the content easier to remember, thus retaining more of what you read.

And therefore more useful to your life.

Isn’t that what non-fiction reading is all about?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading 101

Leaders read...
Read to succeed...
Read to lead...

You've probably heard phrases similar to the above. You may agree with them, too - but do you practice them?

They're true.

In his very unique style, here is what noted leadership author and speaker Tom Peters has to say about reading in his book "The Little BIG Things":

Read Wide!
Surprise Yourself with Your Reading Picks!
Read Deep!
Read Often!
Out-Read the "Competition"!!!
Take Notes!
Share with Others What You Read!

With that spirit, in this week's blog posts I want to: share some reading insights I have learned along the way; look at some great ideas by Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt on reading and note taking; give you my version of the best books for 2010; and make you an offer and a challenge.

How to Read a Book

Literally - that's the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler.  The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don't need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler's 4 levels of reading:
  • Elementary Reading – What does the sentence say?
  • Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
  • Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
  • Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?
Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:
  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and sub-headings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized. 
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.R
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always. 
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.
If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

The converse is true: if a book doesn't capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic - there are always more waiting for you!

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren't reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book this week?

Then share it with someone!

Making the Grade

Spending Thanksgiving with my family in the house (four children, two daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren) was a great reminder about the power of lifelong learning.
  • At two months, my granddaughter is a sensory sponge. She is attracted by bright lights and faces, a little jumpy at loud sounds, and likes to view the world from an upright position.
  • At almost three, every experience with my grandson is a learning opportunity. Climbing in McDonalds's PlayPlace with his aunt, walking through the store amazed by all the things to look at, asking to read books all the time, and creating his own world with a firehouse playset, he is soaking it all in, learning and applying his lessons in life.
  • At eighteen, my youngest son "volunteered" to ride with me to take my grandson back to his home after a spending a couple of days with us. The two hour ride started off with a couple of bouts of sickness, but all in all was quiet. Some lessons you can't find in books or on the cloud.
  • All the rest of our kids - spread out from age 22 to 29 - through their stories of life, speak volumes of the learning that is occurring.
  • As for my wife and I, well, we learned you can go through every dish and pan twice (or more) while preparing a big Thanksgiving meal; that the kitchen ballet to pull that off is funny to watch at times; that a long walk with kids of all ages running, walking, or being pushed in a stroller is one of the best sights of all.
I have deliberately focused on my family, but the idea behind this post is applicable to everyone of any age in any organization:

To Make the Grade, Lifelong Learning is a MUST!

The world we live in is accelerating; the pace of life is increasing, and to maintain this pace you must always be LEARNING.

Learning certainly means different things for different ages and stages of life, but I am going to suggest that one of the best ways to learn is to READ.

Want to know more? Come back tomorrow to begin a journey in reading!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Morning...

...a feast for the senses.

Wafting through my door comes the smell of a turkey roasting. An Adams family tradition, the turkey is my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast. Simply prepared with a rub of butter and seasoning salt on the outside, and apples, celery, and onion in the cavity, it roasts slowly overnight. It's the last thing in the oven before we go to bed - and the first sensory experience of Thanksgiving Day.

A small plaintive cry from the guest bedroom upstairs signals that Lucy has awakened from her sleep, tummy telling her it's time for the first Thanksgiving meal of the household. At two months, she's having a lot of firsts: the first long trip to Nina and GrandBob's; a new sensory world to take in; this four-legged furry thing that goes crazy when people come in the door; and an adoring family that just wants to snuggle with her. But she likes to see the world from a vertical position when she's awake, so we're learning to carry her cradled upright in our arms.

A clickity-clickity on the hardwood floor from the hall outside my bedroom door signals that Luke is ready for his Thanksgiving breakfast - the same meal he was had twice a day for 9+ years: lamb and rice Iams. He slurps the water, scarfs the food, and then impolitely burps (yes, dogs burp). Having expended all the energy he can muster in the pre-dawn hours, he ambles over to his bed, circles three times, and plops down for the first of his many naps of the day. Life is rough when you sleep 20 hours a day, so you have to start early.

Sliding out of a warm bed, my feet hit the cold floor-first my bedroom floor, then the kitchen tiles. Since in the wonderful last-minute switcharoo of rooms to accommodate Lucy's sleeping preferences, I have forgotten where my slippers are. A quick walk to the back door, then outside on the back porch and to the yard for Luke to take care of business so he can get back inside for his breakfast and nap. It's a cool, crisp Thanksgiving morning; the quiet hour just before the moon set and sunrise. The birds aren't up yet, the squirrels are still sleeping, and even I-77 in the distance is quiet as the world sleeps on.

Just a day or so past full moon, Luke and I look out across the brightly-lit back yard. The trees are almost bare, discarding their leaves for the long winter sleep. The moon shining through them casts shadows in sharp relief against the grass below. Wisps of clouds across the sky foretell the likelihood of rain - maybe some today, surely some tomorrow.

I close this sensory trip through Thanksgiving morning with the taste of a steaming hot, early-morning cup of Earl Grey tea swirling around in my mouth. I'm not a big hot tea drinker, but there's just something about a house full of family, laughter, cooking, and the promise of more to come that makes it seem just the perfect way to start the day.

For the first time, all 10 of us are going to be together: Nina, GrandBob, Jon, Hallie, Jack, Jason, Jaime, Lucy, Amy, and Aaron. It's just for part of the day, but it's those hours that make a lifetime of memories.

We thank God for the blessing of family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reverse Mentoring Revisited

You're probably very familiar with the concept of mentoring, the principle of the older and wiser instructing the younger and less experienced.

Reverse mentoring assumes a completely opposite perspective on learning. Earl Creps' book "Reverse Mentoring" is a guidebook for older (ahem) leaders like me who want to experience a new richness of personal formation that only comes from the generations of young leaders below us in age.

I've written about Creps' work before: here, here, and here. I had to stop because it was getting all over me. Now, some months later, I'm picking it up again because, well, I'm in a season of reverse mentoring.

Part of the season is due to my church's current series: "One Generation Away," a focus on the power of a generation to change the world.

I would like to think I can be a part of that generation.

Not the younger generations around us - I don't think you can turn back the clock. But my generation can invest in, learn from, and serve with this current generation of young leaders.

Re-reading "Reverse Mentoring" this week, I came across this quote:

Reverse mentoring is cross-cultural in that it actually uses the unlikely possibility of a relationship to benefit both parties through mutual learning from honesty and humility.

That makes me think...

...and dream...

What about you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Failing to Listen =

Dysfunctional Leadership

Case in point: Rehoboam, upon assuming the kingship of Israel after his father Solomon's death.

Ancient history, you say? No application for today?

Wrong on both counts.

At my church, Elevation Church in Charlotte, Pastor Steven Furtick is in the middle of a series called "One Generation Away". It's all about the possible danger - and incredible potential - of today's younger generations. But it's a message for all of us: the 83 year-old GI Generation, the 52 year-old Baby Boomer, the 30 year-old Gen Xer, and the 18 year-old Millennial.

We are all one generation away from changing the world.

For some of us, it's in finishing our lives well, passing along decades of wisdom and experience. For others, it's pouring ourselves into those we lead, work with, and serve alongside. For still others, it's balancing the eagerness and impatience of youth with the need to proceed with deliberate haste.

It's about listening.

John Maxwell had some great thoughts on listening to accompany the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 10:15:

Leaders must listen for two reasons:
  1. To connect with others
  2. To learn from others
To fail to listen results in:
  • Narrow vision
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Self-centered focus
  • Demanding and impatient style
The opposite? Listen well to the following:
  • Your followers-do you know each member on your team?
  • Your customers-keep in contact with those you serve.
  • Your competitors-don't imitate, but listen in order to learn.
  • Your mentors-no leader can afford to be without a mentor's insight.
  • Your inner circle-listen to those closest to you to feel the heartbeat of the organization.
Check out Pastor Steven's sermon here.

Practice listening here...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Does Your Church Have an Open-Roof Policy?

Many churches today unintentionally turn their backs on those who need Jesus the most. There is an inward focus-we go to our Bible studies, we take care of one another, we listen to our favorite Christian music-basically, our activities are directed towards those already claiming Christ as their Savior.

One day Jesus addressed this with both word and deed. The story is so familiar to most believers we forget the message within. Jesus was teaching in a home. Pretty soon the home was filled to overflowing, with people standing in the doors and windows just to hear Jesus speak.

For the crowd, the meeting was about them. What could they get? What could they learn? What could Jesus offer them? Churches today are filled with well-meaning Christians with similar attitudes. You can hear it in their self-centered words:
  • We love this church because it is so convenient for us
  • We go to this church because our kids love the day care
  • This church makes me feel better about myself
If your ministry has become focused on the already-convinced, then it’s time for an open-roof policy. Out of the entire crowd in and around the house that day, at least four people got it. These four had a crippled friend who desperately needed Jesus, and they were determined to go to any lengths to get him there.

In his book "It", Pastor Craig Groeschel outlines some very practical lessons from these four friends. First, they recognized their friend needed Jesus. Too many believers forget that the lost really need Jesus.

We also see that it took four different people to get this one to Jesus. Reaching people is not just the pastor’s job; it’s everyone’s job. We do our part, others do their part, and God does his. We’re never the answer; Jesus always is.

The story also tells us that love overcomes obstacles. Their love for their friend compelled them to climb on the roof and tear a hole in it so they could lower their friend right in front of Jesus. They didn’t worry about what everyone would say-they were focused on getting their friend to Jesus.

The open roof policy depicted in this story is another way of saying your church has to be outwardly-focused. 
  • Do whatever it takes to make your ministry a place that welcomes those who don’t know Christ
  • Your ministry must have a clear, consistent presentation of Jesus’ story
  • Leaders need real faith; if you believe with every fiber in your body that Christ can and will instantly transform a life, people will sense it, feel it, and believe it as well

Identify the barriers that are keeping your church from reaching others – and then tear the roof off of them!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kitchen Choreography

The other night my wife, son, and I were treated to absolute poetry in motion. A group of trained professionals were executing their craft, each one knowing his specific responsibilities as well as supporting the rest of his team. Hours - no, years - of practice was evident in their graceful moves, focused intensity, and clarity of purpose. We had front row seats, and the show was excellent.

No, we weren't watching a ballet or dance company, or an athletic event - we were eating dinner, celebrating my son's 18th birthday.

This was not just any restaurant, but Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen, where the "open kitchen" concept reigns. The kitchen is right in the center of the restaurant, and we had reservations in the prime observation spot - the Chef's Counter - where all the action was just a few feet away.

The food was excellent: fresh ingredients, prepared in such a way to bring out the natural flavors, served by a warm and friendly waitstaff. But this isn't about the food, as good as it was.

It's about two fundamentals of the restaurant business that can be applied to your organization: efficiency and mise en place.

Rooster's doesn't have a large kitchen, but it is designed to function with efficiency. The saute' station anchors one half of the center; this is where constant motion is an understatement. Saute' is where the chef is juggling eight or ten pans at a time, making flames, making things jump.

Around the corner at the rear of the kitchen is the namesake of the restaurant: a wood fired grill and oven. The chef here grills all the meat dishes called out, sending them to the front to be paired with side dishes - some from the saute' station, others from the other half of the kitchen center - the salad, soup, and fry station. To call these dishes "sides" is an injustice - any one of them (we had five among the three of us) could stand alone as a signature dish.

The front area is grand central station: here the expediter calls out the orders as they come in, checks on orders in progress, and makes the final touches as they head to the guest. The final touch is important - it may be the finishing touch of sauce, or a garnish, or a quick wipe of an errant splatter on the plate.

The corners of the kitchen: pastry chef, preparing delicacies to finish out a wonder dinner; meat chef, taking larger cuts prepared on the grill and finishing them to order; and the support staff, taking out dirty pans and bringing in clean ones and bowls, plates, cups and saucers for the chefs to cook and plate food.

A picture doesn't do this justice - you would have to have a video camera to catch all the movement involved above. But I want to drive home the point: it's all about efficiency: no wasted movement. Everyone in the kitchen knew what was going on, what their job was, and how they can support the rest of the team as needed. The pastry chef would slip around the saute station, helping the chef plate items as they came off the stove. Once, she literally held out a plate to her back, out of sight, and the chef plated the dish, while she was moving another one with her other hand.

The meat chef helped out on the grill; the expediter helped out on saute'; the pastry chef started an item on the grill when that chef had to step away for a moment.

That is more than efficiency - it's the solid work of a team that knows individual and team roles, to the point that they are one.

Mise en Place
French for "put in place", this is what allows all the action described above to take place. It is the hours of work that start before the first meal is fired: washing, cutting, peeling, pre-cooking, weighing, portioning, and positioning of all the ingredients that go into the wonderful final product. Taken broadly, it is the slow simmering of the soups for the night; the baking and preparation of individual items that comprise the wonderful complexity of desserts. It even goes to the preparation of the wood fires that will later cook the wonderful meats that anchor the meal.

Mise en place doesn't get any attention in the final review, but you wouldn't have anything without it. It's all those things that aren't noticed till they're not there. It's the saute' chef reaching in the cooler knowing that he has all the right ingredients to prepare the dish just called out. It's the pastry chef preparing 3 different kinds of ice cream for the desserts on the menu. It's the fry chef making sure the oil is fresh and hot, ready for use. It's the salad chef having everything ready to assemble a variety of salads from the same few ingredients, differing in presentation and dressing. It's the dishwasher, knowing if he doesn't get the dirty pans out and clean ones back, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt.

Mise en place is all about the knowing everything that is required to produce the finished meal, and making sure all the ingredients are ready to use when needed. It's about thinking through things before they happen, so that when they happen, you're one step ahead.

It's all about being prepared.

Our evening at Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen was delightful on so many levels. The front of house staff were gracious in working with me to make sure we could have a front row seat to all the action; the waitstaff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive; the chefs prepared wonderful food while displaying their skills to an audience.

But it was more than just a meal - it was a demonstration of excellence from top to bottom, one that any organization could learn from.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Face in the Mirror

Whose face do you see when you look in the mirror?

Recently I went on a business trip that’s took me through 5 airports, boarding 5 planes, and taking off and landing 5 times in 4 time zones. Along the way, I waited in lines, looked in a lot of faces, and heard lots of conversations. One conversation in particular stands out – two young women in their early 20s were behind me talking about another person. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but voices in a jet way are quite clear. The comment that stopped me? “Yeah, he’s 35 you know, and that’s like, you know, old.”

I’m almost two decades past the age of 35, and I obviously have a different outlook on life than those two young women. Or do I?

I’m not normally the type that looks at myself in a mirror. But this comment, along with much more positive comments from my colleagues related to a change in hairstyle, made me look in the mirror in the hotel that night. Just who was that looking back at me?

The face I saw was that of my father. Instinctively, I know this was triggered by recent changes in his health. At 83, issues are beginning to arise. Emails indicated a gradual change in demeanor and lifestyle. Unexpected phone calls late at night recount hospital visits that begin bringing a new image to mind.

This morning, I looked long in the mirror and the vision I saw was that of my father, coming into focus like a picture being developed right in front of my eyes.

Thought of another way, however, that familiar face embedded in my mind morphed into my son’s and then into his son’s - my grandson. Like a modern day mashup, those collections of lives lived, and yet to live, offer a considerable span of history. A life in waning years, a life at halftime, a life in early adulthood, and a life just beginning – that’s quite a few faces in the mirror.

It doesn’t take a magic mirror to see the past in your own face, or wonder about the future in the face of your children and grandchildren.

Who knows when you will glance into a mirror and meet a past you hadn’t expected and weren’t ready for, or a future that is yet to come.

Look in the mirror – what do you see?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rites of Passage

My youngest son turns 18 today.

This is a significant event - one of increasing responsibility on the journey from boy to man. Turning sixteen and getting a driver's license, going on the first date, the first job - all of these events are signficant - but they are not really a "rite of passage."

Ancient cultures (and some modern ones) have different methods for marking the movement from boyhood to manhood. Many of these rituals would seem primiive, even barbaric, to our civilized society. and yet these cultures have something our culture does not - well-defined rites of passage that allow a boy to know when he becomes a man.

While I'm not advocating for a return to boys spending days in the wilderness, hunting wild game, or being methodically beaten by your elders, there is something to be said for rituals. They are intimately bound up with a sense of accomplishment, the achievment of an adult identity, a connection with adult socitety, and the memory of overcoming the obstacles needed to get there.

A rite of passage is a marker of sorts - marking a change in status. It marks what will now be, not just what is. The child is now recognized by others to be leaving one stage and entering the next stage of maturity.

For my son, I don't think of a single event, but a progression of events - especially in the last year - that mark the passage of adolescent into young adulthood:
  • Being a camp counselor for the past two summers at a Christian boy's camp
  • Taking active leadership roles at his church - not only in the youth area, but in the church at large
  • Taking younger guys under his wing to train them in technical roles at church
  • Exploring his artistic side - taking culinary classes in school, preparing meals for the teachers, and bringing those skills home
  • Demonstrating academic skills in his senior exit project
  • Beginning to understand financial responsibilities (job, car, etc.)
No single event above - or even all of them collectively - signify that my son is now a man. But they do indicate progress along the path.

Turning 18 is only the end of the beginning.

Happy birthday, Aaron!

I love you!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Toolkit for Innovative Thinking

When you're working on a project, things always go smoother when you have the right tools at hand.

If your mind is working on something innovative, the same is true.The mind is full of ideas from past experiences and from observations gained through conversations, movies, television, etc. While you may chose to rely on your subconscious mind to access these ideas, why not take a more structured approach, using specific tools and techniques?

In her book “The Seeds of Innovation”, Elaine Dundon has created a systems thinking approach to innovation. At first those two thoughts seem contradictory, but in reality it can become a very powerful synergy. For example, here’s a “toolkit” you can dive into when you are faced with a challenge in your ministry.

Rummaging in the Attic – elements of previous solutions or ideas can prove to be very valuable fuel for jump-starting your idea engine. Find old ideas, dust them off, and reconnect them in new ways to your current problem or opportunity.

Cultivating Obsession – a great way to find new ideas it to become obsessed with the challenge that confronts you. It means you have to immerse yourself in the challenge, to seek out all the information you possibly can. Obsession will lead to better insights.

Analyzing Frustrations – one of the most fertile areas for identifying new ideas is discovering what frustrates others about the current problem. Focusing on what is not working will sometimes be the origin of a new breakthrough idea.

Identifying the Gold Standard – no matter what the challenge you are facing, someone else has already been down that road. Seek out these people or organizations that have solved a similar challenge in an outstanding way. Make a list of the elements of the process or program that made it work for them, and relate this list to your situation.

Adopting and Adapting – great ideas already exist all around you. Find them out and adopt them as your own. Look within the category of your opportunity, but also look outside the box. Innovators look beyond the borders of their own situation to find new ideas to adopt and adapt.

Combining Ideas – innovative thinking is a little like a cake you bake: take a little of this, a little of that, put them together and you have a delicious dessert. Creative thinkers are aware of the objects and ideas around them and look for new connections by combining diverse ideas and objects.

Finding Similarities – think of other challenges that might be similar. Draw analogies to similar situations, let your mind wander, and you will most likely discover a new connection from an unlikely source.

Breaking Down the DNA – what if your problem is overwhelming? Break it down into its component parts and focus on it bit by bit. Analyzing every step in the process will allow you to discover new answers.

Listing and Twisting – this is actually a follow-on step from the previous one. Once you have listed the steps in the process, you can “twist” them around to find new ideas.

Become a Visual Thinker – something happens when we move away from a linear process of thinking and start to doodle or draw. I’m a big fan of this method; I have a 4’ x 8’ whiteboard on my office wall that I’m constantly stepping up to and sketching out an idea. It seems that your subconscious mind takes over and new connections begin to appear.

Whether you use a process like the ones above, or just pull up a chair with a cup of coffee in hand to think, the point is that innovation is a process. You know where you are; hopefully you know where you want to be. Let your imagination run wild in the space between, and before long you and your team will have a plan to move forward.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Design Gets You in the Game...

...great design is the game winner.

Welcome to the world where design is king.

In the old days, designers were an afterthought, the people at the end of the production process. Engineers would hand over something that was functionally effective and have the designers make it look good. Those days are over.

Today, design is about experiences as well as products. It's about services as much as it is hard goods.

Design is now differentiation.

Alan Webber, founder of Fast Company magazine and author of "Rules of Thumb," puts it this way: Today companies use design to:
  • create distinctive products and services that capture their customers' imaginations
  • restructure their corporate operations
  • unveil new logos and uniforms that express a fresh corporate identity
  • develop new communications tools that connect with customers and shareholders
  • build corporate offices that encourage and enable collaboration
  • collect and share information across a global platform
Design is a way to solve deep-seated social problems. And design is a money saver, a way to simplify products and make them easier and less expensive to manufacture and sell. Across the board designers have defines a way of seeing that adds to the delight of customers and the profitability of companies.

Application to ChurchWorld
You probably already understand this on some level. You understand that the design of your website says more about you and provides a quick glimpse of your "brand". You know that the little - and not so little - things like the design of your logo and your letterhead, the print pieces you use, the "flow" of your worship experience all communicate instantly what your church is all about.

But if you are still a design novice, and want to learn more, here are Webber's three ways to begin to crack the design code:
  • Reading - you may be a word person and you want to try to learn about seeing. Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind," Tim Brown's "Design Thinking," Tom Kelley's "The Art of Innovation" and "The Ten Faces of Innovation," and Don Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things" are required reading. Get one of them today; read it tonight, and put it into action tomorrow.
  • Viewing - You need to practice seeing. Go to an art museum; browse a furniture showroom gallery; check out the latest model cars. The more you look at objects like these, the more you appreciate great design. You're not buying, so don't worry about price. Look carefully at the lines, interior detailing and design, and the small things that make a big difference. "Seeing" is a critical skill for aspiring diagnosticians - like you.
  • Shopping - Go out and find an assortment of small objects that go in your home or office. Look at OXO products; visit an IKEA store. When you pick up one of these objects, you will immediately understand what "consumer-centered design" means. Go to an office supply store and sit in an Aeron chair. Look at the latest products from Apple: iPhone, iPad, the latest MacBook Air. Go to an antique store and see what great design looked like in the past. Take a virtual shopping trip to your heart's content. When you have collected these objects (or examined them enough), what do these products have in common? Are they as good to look at as they are fun to use? Is there an emotional content to their design?
You don't have to buy anything to get the idea. But you do have to buy into the idea:

Design is everywhere, and increasingly, design is everything.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great Minds Ask Great Questions

Tom Peters - Seth Godin - Leonardo da Vinci: a unique trio?


All of us come into the world curious. I saw it in the birth and development of each of my four children. I see it in my 2 1/2 year old grandson and my 7 week old granddaughter.

We've all got it; the challenge is using and developing it for our own benefit. I think our curiosity is at its highest from birth through our first few years. A baby's every sense is attuned to exploring and learning - everything is an experiment. They don't know it yet; to them it's just survival. Then in a few months, or years, their curiosity becomes vocal:

 • Daddy, how do birds fly?

• Mommy, what does a worm eat?

• Why? How? When? What?

It's easy to lose our curiosity as we grow into adulthood - after all, we think we know it all (or at least everything we need to know).

Not really.

Great, growing, learning minds go on asking confounding questions with the same intensity as your curious three-year old. A childlike sense of wonder and insatiable curiosity will compel you to always be a learner.

From Seth Godin:
I've noticed that people who read a lot of blogs and a lot of books also tend to be intellectually curious, thirsty for knowledge, quicker to adopt new ideas and more likely to do important work.
I wonder which comes first, the curiosity or the success?

From Tom Peters:
Swallow your pride, especially if you are a "top" boss. Ask until you understand. The "dumber" the question, the better! Ask! Ask! Ask! (Then ask again!). Above all, sweat the details - the weird, incomprehensible "little" thing that appears in Footnote #7 to Appendix C that doesn't make sense to you. Probe until you find out what it means.

From Leonardo da Vinci:
Do you not see how many and varied are the actions which are performed by men alone? Do you not see how many different kinds of plants and animals there are? What variety of hilly and level places, and streams and rivers, exist? I roam the countryside searching for answers to things I do not understand. These questions engage my thought throughout my life.

A few questions for you:

• How curious are you?

• When was the last time you sought knowledge simply for the pursuit of truth?

• Do you know curious (really curious) people?

• Do you want to be a lifelong learner?

Without "why?" there can be no, "here's how to make it better."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sneak Preview at Elevation Blakeney Campus

It's just a building till the people of God show up; then it becomes a church.

That was Pastor Steven Furtick's opening remark tonight at the sneak preview for Elevation leaders as we get ready to open our fourth campus in Blakeney.

The CO was just given this morning; the paint was barely dry; some of the flat screens weren't working quite right, but the night was all about honoring God for His blessings of our church.

Some of the remarkable things God provided:
  • A building pad completely finished and ready to build, with site work complete - saving literally millions of dollars
  • Very favorable terms for the financing of the building costs not raised in Kingdom Come last year
  • A 2.6 acre site reduced $200,000 if we could pay in cash-which we did
  • Completing the building in less than 11 months
  • 1,200 parking spaces, with 5 means of egress
  • Powerful impact in the cultural community in a facility designed for performances of all types
Pastor Steven quoting Rick Warren:
  • When you're small, people ignore you
  • When you're growing, people criticize you
  • When you're large, people resent you
To which he added:
  • When you're blessed, people can't stop you
God is truly blessing Elevation, and we are grateful!

Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and dominate this city!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Veteran's Recognition at Panther's Game

88 year old Army veteran Harrison Jones sings the National Anthem the way it's supposed to be done.

All five branches of our Armed Forces have their color guards present.

F-15 fly over with Missing Man formation.

Thank you all veterans for your service and sacrifice, especially my father and father-in-law.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Disney Delivers Practical Magic

Disney’s Practical Magic – the stage name for Quality Service Cycle

Onstage-the response that it produces in guests when everything comes together in a seamless, seemingly effortless performance
Backstage-the nuts and bolts necessary to create a Quality Service Cycle

Quality Service defined: exceeding your guests’ expectations and paying attention to detail

The WOW! Factor – Exceeding Guests’ Expectations
  • Paying close attention to every aspect of the guest experience
  • Analyzing that experience from the guest’s perspective
  • Understanding the needs and wants of the guest
  • Committing every element of the process to the creation of an exceptional experience
Quality Service Cycle
  • Service theme-simple statement, shared among all team members, that becomes the driving force of service
  • Service standards-the criteria for actions that are necessary to accomplish the service theme
  • Service delivery systems-vehicles used to deliver service
  • Service integration-each element in the QSC combined to create a complete operating system
That’s how the elements of Quality Service come together at Disney World. The service theme generates standards. The standards are defined and delivered using three basic systems that every organization shares: its people, its physical assets, and its processes. All three are integrated and aligned. That’s the business behind the Disney brand of practical magic of guest services.

Just a couple of questions for you and your church:

So what?

Now What?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Experience Blueprint

Designing Your Church’s Guest Services with the Magic of Disney

Families across America (and now around the world) have experienced the magic of Walt Disney for years. Fairy tales brought to life, journeys into a “wonderful world,” and thrills non-stop are the foundation for the success of the Disney Empire. As Walt himself said, “And it all started with a mouse.”

That may be true, but the magic of Disney may be best stated in a phrase Walt Disney used over 60 years ago: “My business is making people, especially children, happy.” More than just a statement, it was the basis for Disney’s mission as a business; it represented what the company stands for and why it exists. Changing just a little over the years, it is The Walt Disney Company’s service theme.

We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment
for people of all ages, everywhere

Your church is certainly not in the entertainment business, but I would like to suggest that it can learn from the “practical magic” of Disney, and create environments, guest services, and experiences that will create an amazing first impression on your guests and members alike – and help lead them to involvement and investment in your ministries.

Join me at WFX Friday November 5 at 8:30 AM in Ballroom E to learn how you can create magic with your guest services!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Building Project Choreography

One definition of choreography is “the art of composing dances by planning and arranging the movements, steps, and patterns of the dancers.” In the same way, a successful church design & construction project involving AVL is also choreography. The project:
  • is an art form
  • is a composition
  • involves planning and arranging
  • is about movement, steps, and patterns
A working illustration of design-construction-AVL choreography can be found on Alliance Bible Fellowship’s new worship center project: JH Batten Design Builders, Livingstones Architecture, and Signature Sight and Sound have joined together to work with Alliance’s tech team from the very beginning. Early in the planning stages, a working partnership was launched. As the project moved from schematic design to final construction documents, all the partners kept up a running dialog to make sure what the church wanted could be done, on time and in budget.

This panel discussion is taking place today at WFX in Ballroom B, from 1-2:30 PM. It will illustrate the choreography involved in a successful church project with extensive AVL applications. In just the same way dancers must plan, rehearse, and perform a choreographed dance number, a church AVL project involves choreography all throughout the project.

How to Choreograph a Great Building Project
  • Have a vision
  • Pick the music before you start making up the dance
  • Don't dance to the words of the song
  • Count!
  • Don't depend on tricks
Here's the team that is "dancing" on the Alliance Project:

Alliance Bible Fellowship
  • Dean Moyers, Worship and Fine Arts Pastor
  • Ben Cranor, Technical Director
JH Batten
  • Gil Hunter, Project Manager
  • Bob Adams, Development Consultant
Living Stones Architecture
  • David Dial, Steward/President
Signature Sight and Sound
  • Van Sachs, Consultant
Want to learn to dance?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

WFX Begins Tomorrow

The 2010 Worship Facilities Expo and Conference (WFX) kicks off bright and early Wednesday morning at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta.

Just what is WFX?

It's a chance to...

EXPLORE new ideas, new approaches, and new technology

EXPERIENCE valuable lessons and insights from churches of every size

EXPAND skills and resources to increase your church's impact

The Conference runs Wed-Fri, November 3-5. You can experience over 80 classes to improve your church's options for doing ministry.

The Expo runs Wed-Thur, November 3-4. Over 200 exhibitors will be showcasing the latest products, services, and solutions to enhance your church's ministry - all under one roof.

I will admit to a bias - I have been involved in the leadership, programming and exhibition at every WFX since its beginning in 2005. This will be my 8th time around (for a couple of years there were 2 events each year), and each one has been better than before.

If you are in the Atlanta area, or within a few hours drive, I can still get you FREE Expo passes and reduced full conference rates. Email me for complete details.

I'll be posting WFX highlights here the rest of the week.