Do you feel stuck or trapped by overwhelming need in your ministry context? Ministry issues are deep, painful, and complex, and we often wonder how we can continue creatively serving to nurture thriving local communities. Frequently we undertake brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders, but those sparks of inspiration rarely seem to transform into meaningful change. Tina Seelig, in her book, Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World, breaks down the Invention Cycle and helps us understand how to manoeuvre out of our ruts and into long-term sustainable impact in our communities.
Dr. Seelig’s role as Executive Director of Stanford Technology Ventures Program makes her uniquely situated as a spokesperson for entrepreneurialism. She summarizes her book with the following points:
- Imagination requires active engagement and the ability to envision alternatives.
- Creativity requires motivation and experimentation to address challenges.
- Innovation requires focusing and reframing to generate unique solutions.
- Entrepreneurship requires persistence and the ability to inspire others.
What Seelig’s rubric seems to communicate is that the process of entrepreneurial change requires intentionality and discipline. Consummate innovators such as Peter Drucker align with this notion. Rather than being a spontaneous spark of genius or a random strike of lightning, innovation is instead a deliberate process of disciplined action. He attests that “Most innovations… result from a conscious, purposeful search for innovation opportunities which are found in only a few situations. Four such areas of opportunity exist within a company or industry: unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs, and industry and market changes. Three additional sources of opportunity exist outside a company in its social and intellectual environment: demographic changes, changes in perception, and new knowledge.” Analyzing each of these sources of opportunity for creative intervention is where an entrepreneurial vision is birthed. Seelig provides helpful road markers to get us there for our unique ministry situations.
This theme of uncovering thoughtful discipline sustaining entrepreneurial activity reminds me of last week’s blog post on St. Francis’ ingenuity in finding the right balance between spontaneity and discipline. As Nathan Harter stated, “This combination is in part what qualified him for leadership.” This sort of disciplined entrepreneurial leadership is not just for the for-profit sector. It can be, in fact, what distinguishes non-profit and ministry leaders as well.
The innovation stage is particularly helpful in leading one to reframe the problem, and Seelig offers a simple, concrete example in a video interview with Talks at Google on questioning the questions one asks. The concern facing an innovator might be “What should I plan for my dad’s birthday party?” Yet within that simple question lie a multitude of basic assumptions: I need to take responsibility for the planning; we will have a party; birthday parties always have balloons and cake. By reframing the question to “What should I plan for my dad’s birthday celebration?” – changing just one word – the imagined-for solution becomes much more expansive. It’s a celebration, not just a party! Changing the composition of the question to “How should we mark my dad’s birthday milestone?” will create even more creative possibilities.
In my philanthropy career, I have been trying to reframe many questions to assist in the innovation process of clients. Here are a few:
- How is philanthropy done by Christians distinguishable from secular philanthropy?
- How is Jesus a model philanthropist, as the One who gave it all away?
- What can we learn from the widow with two coins who was praised by Jesus for her stellar example of philanthropy?
- How can givers offer more than just funding to help achieve a mission?
Responding to these questions will lead one to reformat typical patterns of behaviour, and create systems to ensure new innovations are carried out. Seelig challenges her readers to take up the challenge of innovation. She states, “[W]hen you get a job – any job – you aren’t given just that job, but rather the keys to the building.” The scope of your potential innovations extend beyond your job description, can touch all of your organizational life, and influence how you visualize what it is you are doing in ministry.
 Tina Seelig, Insight Out (New York: Harper Collins, 2015), 185-186.
 Peter Drucker, “The Discipline of Innovation” Harvard Business Review, August 2002. Accessed on September 13, 2018. https://hbr.org/2002/08/the-discipline-of-innovation.
 See my post from last week: https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp/leading-from-weakness/
 Nathan Harter, “Saint and Leader? The Example of St. Francis of Assisi”, Theology of Leadership Journal, Vol 1, No 1, 24. Accessed September 5, 2018. http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/issue/view/v1i1/v1i1.
 Interview with Tina Seelig, “Talks at Google”, June 30, 2015, Accessed on September 13, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWKDu8Irtb0.
 Seelig, Insight Out, 34.