Friday, February 27, 2009

Socialism and Girl Scout Cookies

A young girl scout (who will remain unidentified but is close to our family) recently went out and sold over 250 boxes of girl scout cookies. She worked her butt off selling cookies (her mom did too!) in the hopes of fully paying for her activities for the rest of the year. She sold the most in her troupe while some other girls sold 10 boxes, 20 boxes, 30 boxes. In the end the leaders announced that all the proceeds that were raised would be distributed evenly among all the girls regardless of how many boxes they sold. The girl who sold 250 boxes would have to pay as much money to attend events as the girls who sold 10 boxes. A couple of observations:
  1. Socialism is demotivating - the top seller girl's response to the situation was, "in that case, next year I'll just sell 10 boxes." The idea of having those in authority over you taking that which you worked hard for and redistributing it to others who have not worked as hard breeds bitterness and laziness and it is extremely demotivating.
  2. Socialism is fundamentally different than and far inferior to generosity - I've always been intrigued with Acts 4:34-35 that says, "There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." At face value this looks like socialism. The one big difference is that this redistribution happened as a result of the generous hearts of motivated individuals - it wasn't legislated by the apostles. Think of how much better the girl scout scenario would have been if the girl would have been encouraged to share her earnings with the other girls, and then wrestled through the heart issue of generosity. Generosity is contagious once a person tastes it.
  3. Socialism has historically failed as an economic system - While it promises prosperity, equality, and security, it has historically led to poverty, misery, and tyranny.
So what's your favorite kind of girl scout cookie? wait... what?

3 Questions Innovators Should be Asking

I've mentioned here and elsewhere that I'm just finishing a book that has been very good called The Invention of Air. It's a little outside the genre of books I normally read but has been a fascinating one. It's a narrative centered around the life and innovations of a pastor in England in the 1700's named Joseph Priestly - a kind of lost figure among the founding fathers of America. He was highly influential in the lives of Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. He was also a key figure in other fields -he played a critical role in the discovery of pure oxygen, the discovery of ecosystems science and the process of photosynthesis, he was the founder of the Unitarian Church, and as I said earlier, played a critical role in the politics of the American Revolution. Not bad for a life's work. I must say plainly that I believe that theologically he is a heretic in the first variety. Nonetheless I've learned a lot from the example of his life and one angle has centered around the process of innovation. Inspired by the life of Joseph Priestly here are three questions I think innovators should be asking themselves:
  1. Am I creating enough down time to innovate? The spikes in Priestly's innovative genius and influence occurred during the seasons of his life where he had the most free time. I know there are limits to this in our modern reality. Most of us can't just work 1-2 hours per day like he did and devote the rest of our time to innovation, invention, and new ideas. But there are smaller ways that we can create space and time to innovate. I need to be diligent about creating more.
  2. Do I have people around me that will help to give my ideas wings? Priestly was a part of the 18th Century British coffeehouse culture which proved a gathering place for very smart and like-minded thinkers from a variety of disciplines who gathered regularly to share and build upon each others ideas. Priestly was incredibly unselfish with his ideas and far less concerned about getting credit than getting at the truth of the next big innovation.
  3. What are the fatal flaws in the existing models? Priestly consistently looked for inconsistencies in the current ways of thinking, be it chemistry, or thermodynamics, or theology, or politics. And then let his curiosity run wild as he explored other methods, theories, or explanations for what was happening. These alternative explanations ultimately led to paradigm shifts in all of these areas.
What are some helpful questions that you ask to fuel your innovative side?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reasons Disney is So Stinking Successful

1. Every employee is in customer service - all the way down to the guys changing the trash bags. It's amazing how committed they are to this.

2. They manage the quality of your experience from beginning to end. They leave absolutely nothing to chance. They built their own highway system down here for heavens sake. Just to make sure that the feeling you get when you drive through those arches and the signage to get you to the right places is absolutely perfect.

3. They're a cult ... or something... I mean it's just scary... these guys are going to rule the world someday... and I for one... just might follow them...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Courage Is

Been collecting some quotes about courage lately for some reason. Here are three of my favorites.

  1. "Courage is knowing that you are indestructible until God’s work is done." unknown
  2. "Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" Winston Churchil
  3. "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How To Measure Success in Ministry - Part 1

If you are not in ministry - you may not understand how difficult it is to resist the temptation to measure a ministry's success based on "nickles and noses." These two factors can't be ignored (giving and attendance) - but they have become the obsession of many a church leader. Our staff went through a time of training and study today and the topic of success and failure in ministry. We unpacked 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6ff which contains the only usage of the word "failure" in the New Testament. Paul said that his ministry to the church in Thessalonica was "not a failure." He then goes on to list some unusual evidence to support his argument. He doesn't talk about numbers of converts, or start up churches. He mentions 3 marks of "success":
  1. His own character (2:3-11 - the bulk of Paul's argument is based on the purity of his motives and character.)
  2. The gospel was preached (2:2)
  3. Lives were changed (2:14-15)

Thanks to conference notes from some folks who attended Innovation 3 which became a great launching pad for our conversation.