Are We Making Our Ideas Happen?

making ideas happenMaking ideas happen = Ideas + Organization + Communal forces + Leadership capability.

Go ahead read that again. Make sure it sticks. According to Scott Belsky’s book, Making Ideas Happen, this is the framework for seeing our ideas come alive. We talk a good game about being innovative and doing whatever it takes to make Christ known, but how are we doing within Campus Crusade (or any Christian ministry) with these components of making our ideas happen?

To get the conversation started here’s my unnofficial rating of Campus Crusade for Christ from a scale 1-10…

  • Ideas (5) – Honestly, this is tough to rate across the breadth of our organization. My general feel is that we have some good ideas coming from our teams at the local level and various other levels, but trying to comply with organizational expectations leads to uncertainty about our freedom to dream.
  • Organization (5) – Some teams and people are more organized than others but more often than not I feel like communication and organization between teams, regions and ministries is a struggle. Too often our staff are living in a state of “reactionary work flow”  just trying to just stay afloat with day to day ministry.
  • Communal Forces (6) – Scott Belsky says ideas don’t happen in isolation, therefore we must get better at broadcasting and refining our ideas. This is where technology has such great potential to fuel the speed and development of our ideas. I’ve seen an increase in this “sharing” culture in the past 2 years and yet often I find our staff struggling to buy into helpful technology or just plain ruling it out.
  • Leadership capability (8) = I think we have a high leadership culture. Leaders who motivate teams, overcome obstacles and make hard decisions. I love the people I work with and they have sharpened me.

As we infuse and innovate for the Gospel sake, may it be balanced with making sure the right ideas actually come to fruition. If you are a student, staff, volunteer or just an outside observer, how would you rate Campus Crusade for Christ?

  • Tim Casteel

    Good thoughts Matt. I pretty much agree with your assessment.

    Without knowing anything about the book, I’d say a good Leadership Culture (like we have) makes the others more likely to happen. And I do feel like we are headed in the right direction with Ideas and Communal Forces.

    It seems to me that Ideas are constrained not by org expectations (I don’t ever think – “I wish I could innovate but I feel that would be frowned upon by CCC inc”) but by:
    1) lack of time (to innovate and to share – like you said under Organization – struggling to just keep up with day to day details)
    2) Lack of Organization and Communal Forces (we’re just now getting better at broadcasting/sharing our ideas and we still lack the online structures to facilitate widespread sharing – that makes it 1) easy/quick to upload ideas and 2) easy/quick to find ideas)

    Not sure about Organization (how does Belsky define that?).

    • Matthew Mccomas

      I don’t feel the “it’ll be frowned upon” perspective. But there are times where I feel like because I’m giving effort to something new that I won’t meet expectations on something we’re measuring as a region. And it’s not like I’m not hearing that there’s freedom to try new things, it’s that when the rubber meets the road the statistics we’re measuring might get hurt by investing time/resources in innovation. But, I am ok with living in this tension.

      In Belsky’s words “organization is all about applying order to the many elements of a creative project. There are concepts you hope to retain, resources you want to utilize, and then the components of the project itself — stuff that needs to get done and other stuff that needs to be referred back to. There are also external elements like deadlines, budgets, clients, and other constraints. All of these elements combine (or collide) as you seek to create, develop, and execute ideas.”

      I don’t think we’re super great at any of this….although there has been a marked increase in our regions organization this year thanks to a new Regional Operations team.

      So it seems like organization includes the ability to organize and sort mass information plus the ability to communicate, manage deadlines, function with all the elements of a project in a high efficient manner. Think Basecamp vs. a bunch of “reply all” emails.

      FYI – Apple was no. 2 on best supply chain management list from AMR Research in 2007. A great example of incredible ideas balanced with making those ideas happen and get them into the customers hands.

    • Brian Virtue

      I think are #1 and #2 as you listed are big issues. #1 is probably the biggest in my mind. But the committee of “no” still exists in our organization and it pops up with surprising consistency when tradition is being tested. Ironically, I think the lack of organization might help some innovation because things at times happen without having to go through various chains of approval. Maybe there are regional or geographic differences here, but I was surprised you’ve never felt the tension of leaders shutting down innovative ideas or trying to co-opt them into “safe” alternatives.

      I think there is a lot of room for growth in the idea category. We endorse easily innovation that can fit neatly in the overall structure of what we’re doing (evangelism tools & strategies). Innovation that would lead to more change as opposed to just plug-n-play tools is not nurtured very well in my mind. I agree with Matt that org. expectations from higher up start to erode and discourage innovation. There’s still a lot of anxiety out there when new ideas actually put concrete actions of change on the table. So I see innovation being encouraged at the highest levels (Douglass – both Steve & Judy!), but somewhere between there and the local level something happens to where the scope of where innovation is wanted is somewhat narrowed.

      So personally I feel there is resistance often to innovation organizationally (that doesn’t mean I should let it stop me though!), so that and the challenge of prioritizing seem to be great challenges for innovation and new ideas. It’s possible I run into a lot of this in the course of doing ethnic ministry. Contextualized innovation in our ministry runs into all sorts of roadblocks and challenges from many levels.

      • Tim Casteel

        I think you hit 2 nails on the head:
        1) “the lack of organization might help some innovation because things at times happen without having to go through various chains of approval.” We innovate freely mostly because there is very little (historically) involvement from the regional level throughout the year. I think my first 5 years as a MTL I probably heard from my RD 5 times. Not that I’m complaining! And not that I think our region would have shut down any innovation.
        2) “It’s possible I run into a lot of this in the course of doing ethnic ministry.” I’m SURE that’s why you feel it more than me. Because you’re truly out there on the cutting edge. I’m in a field that’s been around for 60 years. And any innovation we’re doing is incremental. Your innovation is dangerous – high risk/high reward. Glad you’re leading in the area that you are!

        Great thoughts Brian.

        • Brian Virtue

          appreciate it – do you see any potential hindrances to organic innovative processes and action the more our organization learns to integrate communication at levels so that more people at more levels are seeing what is being innovated before it has a chance to get implemented and refined? I’m curious about this myself.

          One thing is that it’s not always a “no” that discourages innovation. What I’ve experienced and watched in various settings is that oftentimes the pressure to conform with what is already going on is so high that to make progress you have to have so many conversations and meetings and deal with various pressures and different levels of anxiety that you start to wear down and the life of the innovative process starts to drain out of you. Then you either want to quit, or just go play by yourself because trying to do stuff in the context of a larger system just isn’t worth it after a certain point. So it’s not an explicit “no”, but there’s so much resistance that you never really hear an enthusiastic “yes!”

  • Brian Barela

    good thoughts and suggestions matt!

    seems to me that organization and communal forces have the greatest potential to increase. i agree w your assessment on ideas and leadership capability.

    related to organization i think if we ADDED up the amount of knowledge we have as an organization we would be off the charts. however i think we are often collectively ignorant because we fail to collectively organize our knowledge in a usable and accessible manner–the wiki is great for corporate/non-field staff but difficult for field staff related to usability and accessibility.

  • Jayson Whelpley

    || if we ADDED up the amount of knowledge we have as an organization we would be off the charts.

    This is completely true and Brian’s followup is as true. What would be the keys to a better system of connecting similar ideas that are separated by disconnected people?

    • Matthew Mccomas

      Jayson, This question keeps coming up over and over again. What to we share and how should we do it?

      Honestly the breadth of our organization is the big barrier to this. A great step in the right direction has been

    • Tim Casteel

      I agree Jayson (and Matt) – this does seem to be a persistent question/problem. I think, as Matt said, Crupressgreen is a great start. But it’s mostly a closed system – one way from top down (one/few to many). We need to have a many to many system.

      And though I think our breadth is an issue, I know there are far bigger companies that accomplish this – IBM, etc.

      • Matthew Mccomas

        Tim, I totally agree with the thought about IBM, etc. ….wondering what system(s) Cisco uses. I’ve heard good thinks about the culture of that company. Who’s leading the charge on fostering technology that serves organization community/sharing/learning in our organization?

        BTW, I still haven’t started using any of our internal networks…uhhh, I can’t even remember the name of them at the moment…how sad is that.

  • Brian Virtue

    Thanks for doing this Matt. This is a book I’ve been wanting to get to, but haven’t been able to make it happen. Your summary and analysis is really helpful and I agree with your assessment of the organization.

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