I am reading through The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley of IDEO, relaying some of the concepts, and relating his ten innovation "personas" to church leadership in the postmodern world. The first face was the Anthropologist
The second "face of innovation" from Tom Kelley’s The Ten Faces of Innovation is that of the Experimenter. The guy on the right is a bit of an experimenter, and seems to be having a lot of fun. Innovation: it’s not just necessary, it’s fun!
Experimenters love to play, often working with a wide variety of people and settings. They also prototype new ideas very quickly, going from concept to sketch/model to new offering at break-neck speed. Because of the speed of the process, the prototypes can be a bit lo-fi, but that’s alright, they’re just prototypes, right? Tom talks about the fact that things don’t have to be polished to be prototyped.
A particularly interesting idea was "Implementing by experimenting". Instead of deciding what the final product is going to look like, preparing everything, and then "rolling it out" on people (people tend to resist things being rolled out on them), you experiment as you go. You remain flexible, you call it a "beta" (a la Google), you invite input in real-time from people, and you make it possible to implement changes quickly. This way people feel there is some possibility of change, that their input matters, that features can still be "built-in", that this isn’t the final product and you’re going to like it, mister. This relates in many ways to my Church 2.0 post on radical trust.
One of the reasons experimenting doesn’t happen in churches (and other places) is fear. If people are afraid of failing, they will not risk. So we need to create atmospheres where experimenting is encouraged and safe. An important element in cultivating an atmosphere where experimentation
is safe is "flushing away mistakes". Instead of getting hung up on what
went wrong, just "flush" the mistake and move on. "Fail often, to
succeed sooner," they say. If you can get used to the idea of constant,
rapid experimentation, "you’ll make lots of little mistakes which are
really critical steps on the road to success."
Being experimental is actually one of the stated core values of the worship community I oversee (that’s worship leaders, musicians, singers, artists, audio/visual geeks, etc). We try to cultivate an atmosphere where people feel confident and secure enough to step up and try out their crazy ideas. I tell our team to tap into their inner Mad Scientist. We try to engender an atmosphere where it’s safe to fail, because being a mad scientist means we’re going to mix up some concoctions that explode in our faces, that taste terrible, that fizzle out, that have the exact opposite affect we were hoping for. Signing up to experiment is signing up to fail. And honestly, a lot of our crazy ideas do fail, but if we’re creating an environment that welcomes experimentation, failure isn’t really a big deal. Actually, if we’re thinking in Experimenter mode, failures aren’t failures at all. Thomas Edison said "I have not failed. I have merely found ten thousand ways that won’t work."
One year we had a dinner for the worship community, where instead of me giving a brief talk on our core values, I broke people up into groups and told them to create a skit that illustrated the value. It turned out to be a highly hilarious and memorable evening. The group that was assigned the experimental value came up with a skit called "Failed Worship Experiments". They good-naturedly poked fun at some of the funnier faux pas in our worship-leading efforts (and we’ve had quite a few). Various "great ideas" that fizzled out for one reason or another were acted out, and they had the entire group rolling on the floor with laughter. The message was that the mistakes we make in our experimentation aren’t worth losing sleep over. They’re actually quite funny, when you think back on them. So let’s "flush" the mistakes by laughing at ourselves and moving on, continuing to tap into that inner Mad Scientist. Let’s be like Mr. Einstein: