I worked in corporate finance for 20 years, mostly for very large corporations and organizations. I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard always in an operational capacity and I worked in other capacities in other sectors. The common denominator with these is that the status quo is just not acceptable. Standing still, same ole/same ole, “we never did it that way before”, however, is the MO with most churches. I’m not talking creative worship or “user friendly”, any of the quasi Christian attempts to entertain or be “relevant”. (I just read recently about a woman serving on the “worship team”, who wasn’t sure she was ready to go on stage.)
When did worship become entertainment?
In terms of risk in the church, it’s not about monkeying around with age-old worship in favor of “entertaining”, people-pleasing. Worship is worship. Frankly if we got serious about it, we would begin to realize the benefits of genuine worship, plus genuinely lifting up our Creator/Sustainer/Savior up to praise, glorify and give thanksgiving to.
But yes, in other ways we need to take “risks”. Way too many churches discourage anyone they somehow consider “different”. Far too many people have a very general definition of “different”.
“Success” as a Christian, in the church, is always about Jesus and those who are truly disciples of Jesus, those who are saved. Period. Yes, numbers, money, activities are great. But that is not success. It is in the world and that’s the way it will be, but the church is about becoming and living as the Body of Christ. But does that mean just passivity or are we expected to risk, to step out and be bold for Jesus? The answer, obviously, is to be bold for Jesus.
This is probably self-evident, but Inc Magazine writes: “The INC 500 ENTREPRENEURS excel in every area identified by Gallup. But they absolutely dominate in three strengths: risk-taking, business focus and determination -compared with the national sample. Those strengths are, not coincidentally, the ones most universally associated with business starts, survival and scaling.”
These are not areas that Christians excel in. There is no risk taking, there is an excessive focus on being conservative. Nice, non-commital worship, restrictive use of the facility, nice-pleasant studies- don’t want to get into the controversial. One area that’s especially showing up in the church is; that Jesus isn’t the only way. Too much accommodating the individual and less and less faithfulness to true worship and what we do to serve the Lord. It is risky to tell someone that they have to be a member of the church in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Too many encourage you to follow the easy path and worry more about the person than the Lord.
It’s easy to turn people away from using the church facility. One thing that bugs me is that with few exceptions, the church sanctuary is used once a week. There should be more worship during the week, not to use the sanctuary for other things, but to increase worship opportunities, making worship more accessible and meaningful. The rest of the facility should be in regular use for small groups, groups that serve the community. Too often it’s easier to just say no, or only accept the “safest” groups or situations.
I’m not saying that churches, for the most part, do this with mean-spirited. I’m sure most people feel a genuine duty to protect what is there, especially when there’s been a long familial relationship with a particular church. You certainly don’t want to tear up Great-Great-Aunt Tilly’s whatever. It may have nothing to do with church or worship or be obsolete or beyond repair, but who wants to be the one to do the deed? Having said that, tough decisions do need to be made. Not arbitrarily, not because “well that’s so old”, but with the intent of what is going to serve best, what glorifies God and helps people in their Christian-disciple lives. To do that means stepping out in risk. The group that would like to use the facility may not be the “right” kind of people, but you need to welcome them, integrate them into the life of the congregation and help them to grow in Jesus. You disciple them, you take the risk. God put them there for a reason, for you to take the opportunity to be a good disciple of Jesus.
This can be fun, it can be exciting, it can be a rush like you’ve never known. The exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to salvation in Jesus is unforgettable and frankly even addicting. When you really do step out and take that risk, you are going to want to keep going.
“Gallup says those with a talent for risk-taking possess a highly optimistic perception of risk but are also rational decision makers who have an extraordinary ability to mitigate that risk. The assessment shows that Inc 500 founders are more likely than other entrepreneurs to take more and bigger risks. But they are also more likely to optimize their chances for good outcomes and, consequently, rapid growth.” (Leigh Buchanan Inc Magazine September 2014 p 30).
We are children of God, the Creator of all, the great sustainer. How can we not be optimistic, how can we take such a negative view when the Holy Spirit is really pressing on us to do something? How can you not be excited about the opportunity? Yea, I guess the vast majority of people in the world see risk as scary and unproductive (why try? It’s not going to work). OK. So? If we are His, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always “succeed”, but really is their any doubt that it’s not going to be an experience that is rewarding, in terms of growth, in terms of strengthening, in terms of building relationships, on and on? We are the children of God He who will do miracles, they will usually be subtle, but when you think back, you will see the miracle. We need to start taking the risks that the world does. Our risk-taking results in eternal reward, where people in the world are so less reluctant to take risks for material gain that will just end up destroyed. Yea, I don’t want to knock down, Great-Grandfather Elwood’s desk, not lack of respect, but what is truly helping people to come to Christ and what is truly glorifying God. Within those parameters we need to take risks, everything else are lesser considerations and should never keep us from our greater calls.
And I am not saying “name it and claim it”, but it has been my experience that when you do take a risk, we Christians call it faith, that people see that and respond. Often you will get the support you need for a particular “risk” and sometimes you even get more from people who want to encourage the church to continue to step out in faith.
How do we as risk takers in the world, readily understand how that looks as a Christian and how to we live that as disciples of Jesus and part of a church? Join us on our Wednesday morning Coffee Breaks, shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts, 10am, park behind the church and walk about 20 yards. First timers? I will buy you a cup of coffee. God bless.
We know that there are times when we are just on our game, at our creative height and we can associate that with our physical condition. How can we recreate those conditions to be at our best more often?
Prof Baba Shiv of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers some really great direction.
In an article in Inc Magazine (Feb 2014 pp 86-87) Ryan Underwood writes: “According to Shiv, creativity resides at the intersection of two primary pathways in the brain. along one pathway, the neurotransmitter serotonin governs whether you are operating from a sense of calm and contentment or from a position of anxiety and fear. On the other pathway, dopamine moves you from boredom or apathy to excitement and engagement.” You want a high combination of serotonin and dopamine to be calm and energized at the same time.
Serotonin is the key and the article discusses a way to maximize the effect of this neurotransmitter which is a sense of well-being, satisfaction, seems to be in terms of initiating, creating. Shiv/Underwood points out that a calm, probably aesthetically pleasing environment, work space finding ways to reduce stress enhance the effects of serotonin. Other studies I’ve seen have discussed a pleasant ambient noise, like a coffee shop environment, pleasant music. They point out that “…two hours of deep, non-REM sleep at night enables the body to restore the proper levels of serotonin.”
“Serotonin levels tend to be highest in the morning, making it an optimal time to schedule brainstorming sessions.” I know I always seem to be at my best in the morning, if I really need to do my best I try to get on the task immediately and get as much as possible done in the morning. Shiv points out that a good breakfast helps to enhance the effect of the serotonin. That means put the donuts and the puffy carbs away and eat a breakfast higher in good proteins and carbs. My breakfast is boring as heck, but it’s two par-boiled eggs (and get over the cholesterol thing. The effect is no where as bad as has been suggested and eggs have elements that are necessary and not available in other foods. Boiling retains the health benefits and minimizes the effects of frying and cholesterol.) Also oatmeal with strawberries. All good energy food and Shiv adds: ‘”That’s the best brain food,” he says. “The proteins produced from it in the body are converted to the much-coveted serotonin and dopamine.”‘ And they both add, throw in the caffeine for extra effect.
“Cardiovascular exercise also enhances the neurological conditions for creative thinking by releasing a peptide that helps produce serotonin.” it helps to get up and get a little exercise before any effort. Forty minutes of vigorous exercise at least five days a week are recommended. I have been doing a vigorous workout every morning since my twenties (over thirty years). I have found on days when I didn’t do a workout, that I was very sluggish, everything seemed to be challenging and I was not very productive. You may think that tough physical activity might somehow wear you out, make you too tired to be productive, but it’s been my experience it enhances my entire physical well-being.
“Maintaining a variety of intellectual interests also keeps the creative juices flowing. Shiv says it’s important to talk to people in other disciplines and read widely outside your field to develop ‘knowledge nodes’ – bits of unrelated information that can come together to produce an unexpected solution.” I maintain a wide variety of interests, having had a professional career in corporate finance, in the Coast Guard, in Christian ministry. Add to these interests in physical fitness, science, travel, language, writing, I like to read extensively, talk with different people. As a Police Chaplain I get to interact extensively with various levels of police officers and people undergoing trauma, stress. In ministry I get to share with people over some of the biggest life events, marriage, birth, death. injury, loss etc. Some may seem more pleasant than others, but all of them present their own stressful challenges.
Ok, so a little digression, but the take away from all this is as follows: Good diet, eat right. Cut the nonsense with the big donuts, muffins etc. They don’t do you any good. Find some way to make a calming environment, not to put you to sleep, but to help build the up lifting effects of serotonin and the calming effects of dopamine. Dopamine is important because it keeps you in control, you can have a high level of energy and creativity, and you focus with a good dose of dopamine. Vigorous exercise also produces dopamine necessary to help you maintain your composure. Get your sleep and maintain a lot of interests. Yes, be expert at what you do, but maintain a broad perspective.
A good way to maintain that perspective, on top of everything else, is to maintain your life in Christ. Yea I know, “something else?”. I manage to fit it all in, get into the office and pretty much always put in a 50 plus hour work week and I will match a lot of the stress I deal with, have dealt with, with anyone out there. Remember what it is all ultimately about. What we do today is important, but in Jesus we have an eternal perspective, and we also have a here and now perspective. I’m sure Prof Shiv could have taken it a little further and added that when we have positive relationships with those around us, stay in prayer and connected to God the Father, that we are energized and guided by the Holy Spirit. Get up a little earlier, quit the stupid things that waste time, focus on the things that make you better. Put the lameo games away, the phone, the silly stuff; Take time in prayer, get some real exercise, get good nutrition, get good sleep, interact with people who will help you grow, broaden out your interests to help you grow and then watch the good things happen.
A side bar to the Inc article talks about how “Method” which makes cleaning products offers employees training in improv acting … “all in an effort to keep people weird, creative and humble.”‘ Hmmm, I’m thinking there’s a lot out there and we’re spending way too much time on silly stuff that not only doesn’t do anything for us, but actually can harm us. Start it all up with prayer and look for God’s guidance in all you do.
We meet Wednesday mornings 10 am, First St Johns, 140 W King St, York, Pa, take some time in the middle of the week to discuss your life in the workplace as a Christian. No charge, I even buy your first cup of coffee, no obligation.
The following article is from the NY Times, Nov 16, 2014. The subject has been a regular one of mine, in that I’m continually taken by the fear people have of failure. As a Christian pastor seems I deal with failure, at least in a secular sense on a regular basis, a lot more than I did in the corporate world or the military. Failure seems to be kind of built in, and if you read the Bible, you will see much failure, at least in the secular sense. While we see failure as “bad”, I really think that God kind of sees it more in terms of our faith. We see this daunting challenge that God has set in front of us, and our instinct is to just turn around and go the other way. But we can feel the Holy Spirit pressing on us to keep going. Say I’m witnessing to someone about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is pushing me to witness and the other person to hear what I’m saying and be led to Christ by the Holy Spirit. That person can refuse. Did I fail? No. I was faithful, I did what I was led to do, hopefully not only to the best of my ability but also with the Holy Spirit using me to act and speak through. All good things, I didn’t fail, I was faithful, and the take away should always be, that as much as I want someone to be saved in Christ, you can’t dray someone into the kingdom either.
The take away as a Christian is this God isn’t going to see failure the way we do. He’s led me through a lot in the world, business, military, civic, education, family, when I look back on it as a pastor, I really don’t see failure as much as I see God preparing me. Instead of getting too caught up in the world’s ideas, let’s faithfully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, trust what He is doing and leave the results up to Him and take away the lessons and experience for ourselves. I’ve taken the discussion a little different route then what the author, Adam Davidson, probably intended, but the world knows that failure is often the route to success, we as Christians should know that we aren’t necessarily called to be successful, but we are called to be faithful. I’ve reblogged the article in total because it is a good discussion on how we should see the world:
“When you pull off Highway 101 and head into Sunnyvale, Calif., the first thing you notice is how boring innovation looks up close. This small Silicon Valley city, which abuts both Cupertino, the home of Apple, and Mountain View, the site of the Googleplex, is where Lockheed built the Poseidon nuclear missile. It’s where the forebear of NASA did some of its most important research and where a prototype for Pong debuted at a neighborhood bar. Countless ambitious start-ups — with names like Qvivr, Schoolfy, eCloset.me and PeerPal — appear in Sunnyvale every year. Aesthetically, though, the city is one enormous glass-and-stucco office park after another. Its dominant architectural feature, the five-story headquarters of Yahoo, a few minutes from Innovation Way, looks about as futuristic as a suburban hospital.
As an industry becomes more dynamic, its architecture, by necessity, often becomes less inspiring. These squat buildings have thick outer walls that allow for a minimal number of internal support beams, creating versatile open-floor plans for any kind of company — one processing silicon into solar-power arrays, say, or a start-up monitoring weed elimination in industrial agriculture. In Sunnyvale, companies generally don’t stay the same size. They expand quickly or go out of business, and then the office has to be ready for the next tenant. These buildings need to be the business equivalent of dorms: spaces designed to house important and tumultuous periods of people’s lives before being cleaned out and prepped for the next occupant.
Perhaps the best place to behold the Valley’s success as a platform for innovation is a 27,000-square-foot facility just down the block from Yahoo. This is the warehouse of Weird Stuff, a 21-person company that buys the office detritus that start-ups no longer want. One section of the space teems with hundreds of laptops and desktops; another is overloaded with C.P.U.s and orphaned cubicle partitions. “If founders are in a building that’s costing $50,000 a month, and they’ve lost their funding and have to be out by next Friday, we respond very quickly,” said Chuck Schuetz, the founder of Weird Stuff.
Weird Stuff also acquires goods from the start-ups that succeed, when they are ready to upgrade offices and need to offload their old equipment. “We get truckloads every day,” Schuetz told me. He said that he receives a lot of calls from government offices and large corporate-network operators who desperately need, for example, a 1981 Seagate ST506 hard drive in order to keep a crucial piece of equipment running. But much of his stuff is bought by new waves of start-ups in search of inexpensive keyboards or cubicle partitions. What doesn’t move is sold to scrap dealers. “This,” he said, gesturing to the giant scrap bin out back, “is where everything ends up.”
For decades, entrepreneurs and digital gurus of various repute have referred to this era, in a breathlessness bordering on proselytizing, as the age of innovation. But Weird Stuff is a reminder of another, unexpected truth about innovation: It is, by necessity, inextricably linked with failure. The path to any success is lined with disasters. Most of the products that do make it out of the lab fail spectacularly once they hit the market. Even successful products will ultimately fail when a better idea comes along. (One of Schuetz’s most remarkable finds is a portable eight-track player.) And those lucky innovations that are truly triumphant, the ones that transform markets and industries, create widespread failure among their competition.
An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less. (Schuetz receives tons of smartphones that are only a season or two old.)
The closure of the failure loop has sent uncomfortable ripples through the economy. When a product or company is no longer valued in the marketplace, there are typically thousands of workers whose own market value diminishes, too. Our breakneck pace of innovation can be seen in stock-market volatility and other boardroom metrics, but it can also be measured in unemployment checks, in divorces and involuntary moves and in promising careers turned stagnant. Every derelict product that makes its way into Weird Stuff exists as part of a massive ecosystem of human lives — of engineers and manufacturers; sales people and marketing departments; logistics planners and truck drivers — that has shared in this process of failure.
Innovation is, after all, terrifying. Right now we’re going through changes that rip away the core logic of our economy. Will there be enough jobs to go around? Will they pay a living wage? Terror, however, can also be helpful. The only way to harness this new age of failure is to learn how to bounce back from disaster and create the societal institutions that help us do so. The real question is whether we’re up for the challenge.
After a tour of Weird Stuff, Schuetz mentioned a purple chair that he kept among the office furniture piled haphazardly in the back of his facility. Unbeknown to him, that chair actually provides a great way to understand the acceleration of innovation and failure that began 150 years ago. In ancient times, purple chairs were virtually priceless. Back then, all cloth dyes were made from natural products, like flower petals or crushed rocks; they either bled or faded and needed constant repair. One particular purple dye, which was culled from the glandular mucus of shellfish, was among the rarest and most prized colors. It was generally reserved for royalty. Nobody had surplus purple chairs piled up for $20 a pop.
But that all changed in 1856, with a discovery by an 18-year-old English chemist named William Henry Perkin. Tinkering in his home laboratory, Perkin was trying to synthesize an artificial form of quinine, an antimalarial agent. Although he botched his experiments, he happened to notice that one substance maintained a bright and unexpected purple color that didn’t run or fade. Perkin, it turned out, had discovered a way of making arguably the world’s most coveted color from incredibly cheap coal tar. He patented his invention — the first synthetic dye — created a company and sold shares to raise capital for a factory. Eventually his dye, and generations of dye that followed, so thoroughly democratized the color purple that it became the emblematic color of cheesy English rock bands, Prince albums and office chairs for those willing to dare a hue slightly more bold than black.
Perkin’s fortuitous failure, it’s safe to say, would have never occurred even a hundred years earlier. In pre-modern times, when starvation was common and there was little social insurance outside your clan, every individual bore the risk of any new idea. As a result, risks simply weren’t worth taking. If a clever idea for a crop rotation failed or an enhanced plow was ineffective, a farmer’s family might not get enough to eat. Children might die. Even if the innovation worked, any peasant who found himself with an abundance of crops would most likely soon find a representative of the local lord coming along to claim it. A similar process, one in which success was stolen and failure could be lethal, also ensured that carpenters, cobblers, bakers and the other skilled artisans would only innovate slowly, if at all. So most people adjusted accordingly by living near arable land, having as many children as possible (a good insurance policy) and playing it safe.
Our relationship with innovation finally began to change, however, during the Industrial Revolution. While individual inventors like James Watt and Eli Whitney tend to receive most of the credit, perhaps the most significant changes were not technological but rather legal and financial. The rise of stocks and bonds, patents and agricultural futures allowed a large number of people to broadly share the risks of possible failure and the rewards of potential success. If it weren’t for these tools, a tinkerer like Perkin would never have been messing around with an attempt at artificial quinine in the first place. And he wouldn’t have had any way to capitalize on his idea. Anyway, he probably would have been too consumed by tilling land and raising children.
Perkin’s invention may have brought cheap purple (and, later, green and red) dyes to the masses, but it helped upend whatever was left of the existing global supply chain, with its small cottage-size dye houses and its artisanal crafts people who were working with lichen and bugs. For millenniums, the economy had been built around subsistence farming, small-batch artisanal work and highly localized markets. Inventions like Perkin’s — and the steam engine, the spinning jenny, the telegraph, the Bessemer steel-production process — destroyed the last vestiges of this way of life.
The original age of innovation may have ushered in an era of unforeseen productivity, but it was, for millions of people, absolutely terrifying. Over a generation or two, however, our society responded by developing a new set of institutions to lessen the pain of this new volatility, including unions, Social Security and the single greatest risk-mitigating institution ever: the corporation. During the late 19th century, a series of experiments in organizational structure culminated, in the 1920s, with the birth of General Motors, the first modern corporation. Its basic characteristics soon became ubiquitous. Ownership, which was once a job passed from father to son, was now divided among countless shareholders. Management, too, was divided, among a large group of professionals who directed units, or “subdivisions,” within it. The corporation, in essence, acted as a giant risk-sharing machine, amassing millions of investors’ capital and spreading it among a large number of projects, then sharing the returns broadly too. The corporation managed the risk so well, in fact, that it created an innovation known as the steady job. For the first time in history, the risks of innovation were not borne by the poorest. This resulted in what economists call the Great Compression, when the gap between the income of the rich and poor rapidly fell to its lowest margin.
The secret of the corporation’s success, however, was that it generally did not focus on truly transformative innovations. Most firms found that the surest way to grow was to perfect the manufacturing of the same products, year after year. G.M., U.S. Steel, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and other iconic companies achieved their breakthrough insights in the pre-corporate era and spent the next several decades refining them, perhaps introducing a new product every decade or so. During the period between 1870 and 1920, cars, planes, electricity, telephones and radios were introduced. But over the next 50 years, as cars and planes got bigger and electricity and phones became more ubiquitous, the core technologies stayed fundamentally the same. (Though some notable exceptions include the television, nuclear power and disposable diapers.)
Celebrated corporate-research departments at Bell Labs, DuPont and Xerox may have employed scores of white-coated scientists, but their impact was blunted by the thick shell of bureaucracy around them. Bell Labs conceived some radical inventions, like the transistor, the laser and many of the programming languages in use today, but its parent company, AT&T, ignored many of them to focus on its basic telephone monopoly. Xerox scientists came up with the mouse, the visual operating system, laser printers and Ethernet, but they couldn’t interest their bosses back East, who were focused on protecting the copier business.
Corporate leaders weren’t stupid. They were simply making so much money that they didn’t see any reason to risk it all on lots of new ideas. This conservatism extended through the ranks. Economic stability allowed millions more people to forgo many of the risk-mitigation strategies that had been in place for millenniums. Family size plummeted. Many people moved away from arable land (Arizona!). Many young people, most notably young women, saw new forms of economic freedom when they were no longer tied to the routine of frequent childbirth. Failure was no longer the expectation; most people could predict, with reasonable assurance, what their lives and careers would look like decades into the future. Our institutions — unions, schools, corporate career tracks, pensions and retirement accounts — were all predicated on a stable and rosy future.
We now know, of course, that this golden moment was really a benevolent blip. In reality, the failure loop was closing far faster than we ever could have realized. The American corporate era quietly began to unravel in the 1960s. David Hounshell, a scholar of the history of American innovation, told me about a key moment in 1968, when DuPont introduced Qiana, a kind of nylon with a silklike feel, whose name was selected through a computer-generated list of meaningless five-letter words. DuPont had helped to create the modern method of product development, in which managers would identify a market need and simply inform the research department that it had to produce a solution by a specific date. Over the course of decades, this process was responsible for successful materials like Freon, Lucite, Orlon, Dacron and Mylar. In Qiana, DuPont hoped that it had the next Lycra.
But not long after the company introduced Qiana to the market, it was met by a flood of cheap Japanese products made from polyester. Qiana, which only came close to breaking even during one year of sales, eventually sustained operating losses of more than $200 million. Similar shudders were felt in corporate suites across America, as new global competitors — first from Europe, then from Asia — shook up the stable order of the automotive and steel industries. Global trade narrowed the failure loop from generations to a decade or less, far shorter than most people’s careers.
For American workers, the greatest challenge would come from computers. By the 1970s, the impact of computers was greatest in lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs. Factory workers competed with computer-run machines; secretaries and bookkeepers saw their jobs eliminated by desktop software. Over the last two decades, the destabilizing forces of computers and the Internet has spread to even the highest-paid professions. Corporations “were created to coordinate and organize communication among lots of different people,” says Chris Dixon, a partner at the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. “A lot of those organizations are being replaced by computer networks.” Dixon says that start-ups like Uber and Kickstarter are harbingers of a much larger shift, in which loose groupings of individuals will perform functions that were once the domain of larger corporations. “If you had to know one thing that will explain the next 20 years, that’s the key idea: We are moving toward a period of decentralization,” Dixon says.
Were we simply enduring a one-time shift into an age of computers, the adjustment might just require us to retrain and move onward. Instead, in a time of constant change, it’s hard for us to predict the skills that we will need in the future. Whereas the corporate era created a virtuous cycle of growing companies, better-paid workers and richer consumers, we’re now suffering through a cycle of destabilization, whereby each new technology makes it ever easier and faster to create the next one, which, of course, leads to more and more failure. It’s enough to make us feel like mollusk-gland hunters.
Much as William Henry Perkin’s generation ripped apart an old way of life, the innovation era is sundering the stability of the corporate age. Industries that once seemed resistant to change are only now entering the early stages of major disruption. A large percentage of the health-care industry, for example, includes the rote work of recording, storing and accessing medical records. But many companies are currently devising ways to digitize our medical documents more efficiently. Many economists believe that peer-to-peer lending, Bitcoin and other financial innovations will soon strike at the core of banking by making it easier to receive loans or seed money outside a traditional institution. Education is facing the threat of computer-based learning posed by Khan Academy, Coursera and other upstart companies. Government is changing, too. India recently introduced a site that allows anybody to see which government workers are showing up for their jobs on time (or at all) and which are shirking. Similarly, Houston recently developed a complex database that helps managers put an end to runaway overtime costs. These changes are still new, in part because so many large businesses benefit from the old system and use their capital to impede innovation. But the changes will inevitably become greater, and the results will be drastic. Those four industries — health care, finance, education and government — represent well more than half of the U.S. economy. The lives of tens of millions of people will change.
Some professions, however, are already demonstrating ways to embrace failure. For example, there’s an uncharacteristic explosion of creativity among accountants. Yes, accountants: Groups like the Thriveal C.P.A. Network and the VeraSage Institute are leading that profession from its roots in near-total risk aversion to something approaching the opposite. Computing may have commoditized much of the industry’s everyday work, but some enterprising accountants are learning how to use some of their biggest assets — the trust of their clients and access to financial data — to provide deep insights into a company’s business. They’re identifying which activities are most profitable, which ones are wasteful and when the former become the latter. Accounting once was entirely backward-looking and, because no one would pay for an audit for fun, dependent on government regulation. It was a cost. Now real-time networked software can make it forward-looking and a source of profit. It’s worth remembering, though, that this process never ends: As soon as accountants discover a new sort of service to provide their customers, some software innovator will be seeking ways to automate it, which means those accountants will work to constantly come up with even newer ideas. The failure loop will continue to close.
Lawyers, too, are trying to transform computers from a threat into a value-adding tool. For centuries the legal profession has made a great deal of money from drawing up contracts or patent applications that inevitably sit in drawers, unexamined. Software can insert boilerplate language more cheaply now. But some computer-minded lawyers have found real value in those cabinets filled with old contracts and patent filings. They use data-sniffing programs and their own legal expertise to cull through millions of patent applications or contracts to build never-before-seen complex models of the business landscape and sell it to their clients.
The manufacturing industry is going through the early stages of its own change. Until quite recently, it cost tens of millions of dollars to build a manufacturing plant. Today, 3-D printing and cloud manufacturing, a process in which entrepreneurs pay relatively little to access other companies’ machines during downtime, have drastically lowered the barrier to entry for new companies. Many imagine this will revitalize the business of making things in America. Successful factories, like accounting firms, need to focus on special new products that no one in Asia has yet figured out how to mass produce. Something similar is happening in agriculture, where commodity grains are tended by computer-run tractors as farming entrepreneurs seek more value in heritage, organic, local and other specialty crops. This has been manifested in the stunning proliferation of apple varieties in our stores over the past couple of years.
Every other major shift in economic order has made an enormous impact on the nature of personal and family life, and this one probably will, too. Rather than undertake one career for our entire working lives, with minimal failure allowed, many of us will be forced to experiment with several careers, frequently changing course as the market demands — and not always succeeding in our new efforts. In the corporate era, most people borrowed their reputations from the large institutions they affiliated themselves with: their employers, perhaps, or their universities. Our own personal reputations will now matter more, and they will be far more self-made. As career trajectories and earnings become increasingly volatile, gender roles will fragment further, and many families will spend some time in which the mother is a primary breadwinner and the father is underemployed and at home with the children. It will be harder to explain what you do for a living to acquaintances. The advice of mentors, whose wisdom is ascribed to a passing age, will mean less and less.
To succeed in the innovation era, says Daron Acemoglu, a prominent M.I.T. economist, we will need, above all, to build a new set of institutions, something like the societal equivalent of those office parks in Sunnyvale, that help us stay flexible in the midst of turbulent lives. We’ll need modern insurance and financial products that encourage us to pursue entrepreneurial ideas or the education needed for a career change. And we’ll need incentives that encourage us to take these risks; we won’t take them if we fear paying the full cost of failure. Acemoglu says we will need a far stronger safety net, because a society that encourages risk will intrinsically be wealthier over all.
History is filled with examples of societal innovation, like the United States Constitution and the eight-hour workday, that have made many people better off. These beneficial changes tend to come, Acemoglu told me, when large swaths of the population rally together to demand them. He says it’s too early to fully understand exactly what sorts of governing innovations we need today, because the new economic system is still emerging and questions about it remain: How many people will be displaced by robots and mobile apps? How many new jobs will be created? We can’t build the right social institutions until we know the precise problem we’re solving. “I don’t think we are quite there yet,” he told me.
Generally, those with power and wealth resist any significant shift in the existing institutions. Robber barons fought many of the changes of the Progressive Era, and Wall Street fought the reforms of the 1930s. Today, the political system seems incapable of wholesale reinvention. But Acemoglu said that could change in an instant if enough people demand it. In 1900, after all, it was impossible to predict the rise of the modern corporation, labor unions, Social Security and other transformative institutions that shifted gains from the wealthy to workers.
We are a strange species, at once risk-averse and thrill-seeking, terrified of failure but eager for new adventure. If we discover ways to share those risks and those rewards, then we could conceivably arrive somewhere better. The pre-modern era was all risk and no reward. The corporate era had modest rewards and minimal risks. If we conquer our fear of failure, we can, just maybe, have both.
I really think this article in Inc Magazine is very pertinent for everyone, but should be readily understandable by managers who are Christians. We’ve all heard the phrase “tough love”, but Issie Lapowsky points out that maybe we should be aware that there should be a balance between tough and love: “…research shows that tough love can be an effective form of leadership provided one strikes the proper balance between “tough” and “love”. (Feb 2014 pp 46-47)
Lapowsky points out what we as Christians should be striving for: “The challenge is to set high demands while still being supportive. ‘When you build a relationship on trust, then the majority of people are OK with tough love,’ says Christine Porath, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. ‘They’ll rise to the occasion; some thrive on it.’
Frank Poore the founder of CommerceHub,… talks about how he will push his employees, but wants them to push back, he challenges them and wants them to defend their positions. But he also points out that he never makes it about them personally.
I agree, I want people to take a position, I want to find where people are. Ya, I guess it’s not playing into the kissy-kissy type of mindset that we have in society, but I think relationships grow with candor. I’m not trying to challenge, so much as I’m trying to engage, show how much I’m interested, because I’m pretty much always interested. In addition to challenging, anyone in leadership should be curious about pretty much everything. I don’t want to pry, but I do want people to feel comfortable confiding, I do want people to think that I’m someone who is interested and a good listener.
Too often I’ve seen managers/supervisors belittling a subordinate. OK, if necessary, you go back into a private space and candidly, but again not personally discuss what the problems are. If someone takes that personally, well, can’t do much with that. Frankly there are too many people who think that anything short of unqualified praise is a personal attack. Those people are going to have bigger problems than anything I’m going to be able to deal with, other than in a pastoral context. Even then too many people think of pastors as feel-good generators, sometimes you should even when they are wrong, but tough-love is as valid for pastors then anyone.
We all, ya pastors included, don’t like rudeness, respond to it poorly and are much less productive. That should be pretty obvious, but to too many people it’s not. Are we being critical because we are truly concerned, because we want to help? Or are we being critical just to benefit our ego? Jesus pushed on those around Him to strive to be best and often He had to show tough love, let’s learn from Him and try to emulate Him in the workplace and in every part of our life.
We still take some time during the workweek at the Green Bean Coffee shop corner of Beaver St and W King St Wednesday 10am, park right behind the church 140 W King. Look forward to meeting you or hearing from you. God bless.
I have developed a heart for those dealing with unemployment. I worked in corporate finance for twenty years and went through my share of. Corporate challenges I do know the drill. If you are dealing with this I am sure you have been working hard, doing all the things that are recommended and still keeping a great attitude. I would certainly encourage you to keep trusting in God, looking for His will and trusting that he is moving you where you should be. I truly hope that you will take your foot off the pedal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep a positive attitude, keep regular hours do what you can do but take time to enjoy family and friends to let a group like ours give support, for your pastor to encourage and give comfort. I know how you’re feeling and you need to stop beating yourself. This time of year is particularly tough for two groups, those who have lost a loved one and those who are unemployed. Please be with brothers and sisters in Jesus and enjoy their support. If you are in the York, Pa area and we can provide support of clothing, food, fellowship, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now something to think about for next week, maybe you’re kind of in a rut so try this. This is something we suggest to people in the group we facilitate, but now it is backed up with professional opinion. The following is from “Men’s Health” Jul/August 2014 page 20:
“Donating your time really will help you get ahead. In a study in the “Journal of Career Assessment”, unemployed people who volunteered weekly were far more likely to have a job within six months than those who didn’t lend a hand. Even those who volunteered less than two hours a week had a better shot at being hired elsewhere, says Varda Konstam PhD, the study’s lead researcher. The key word here is “elsewhere”. The ability to ladle out soup doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work only in a cafeteria. Interviewers are increasingly viewing such basic skills as indicators of broader skill sets. That means serving soup isn’t about serving soup; it shows that you’re good at customer service and work well with others. Try telethons to show off your sales and marketing tactics or find another opportunity in your area at volunteermatch.org ”
i have seen at least two people in our group end up with really great positions by following this advice. One other note we are more and more seeing ages forty and over with this group. Either they’re the only ones taking the initiative to be part of such group or it’s hitting older workers. I’d be willing to be a combination of both. Any discussion on that would be appreciated we would like to get better in this area and input would be appreciated. Again Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.
I’m still doing triathlons, playing basketball (I’d play racquetball, but I can’t find a court or anyone to play with) I know, ‘want some cheese with that whine?” Anyway, I’ve certainly learned about diet (not to say I follow it, but I’m better then I probably otherwise would be) and supplements and how different hormones affect your brain.
Ryan Underwood in Inc Magazine (February 2014 pp 86-87) has taken that information and applied it to boosting performance at work. In my 20 years of corporate experience, I would compare some days to running an extended triathlon. Ryan is quoting Baba Shiv a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. There are two primary pathways to the brain which is where serotonin travels which regulates your level of calm or fear and anxiety. The other pathway transmits dopamine, which moves you from boredom to excitement, engagement. You want a high level of both “for your best creative work.” “This will produce a condition in which you are calm but energized.” I’m thinking in terms of “never let ’em see ya sweat.” I’ve had those times, where you are highly aware, motivated, but you can’t let anyone see that you’re nervous. I’m thinking of some pretty dicey search and rescue cases where if you make the wrong move or too much someone gets hurt or worse, while still convincing your crew that you are in control and not the least bit worried. Ya, have to be a good actor too.
Sleep affects all kinds of performance, athletic, underway or at the office. “…two hours of deep, non-REM sleep each night for the brain to restore the proper levels of serotonin….it can be diminished by sleep interruptions as well as alcohol and caffeine consumption.”
Shiv says that you should eat protein in the morning vs carbs. The body uses protein to “convert to the much-coveted serotonim and dopamine.” First I have 2 eggs in the morning. I know cholesterol! But the research I’ve read is that the risk there was, initially, much overstated and also that there are nutrients, especially in the yolk that you don’t get elsewhere. But you can boil, or my wife bought an egg maker that you can micro-wave that are much healthier than frying. Still need carbs, that is the energy food and the earlier in the day you eat your energy store of carbs, the less you will go to sleep with and your body stores that as fat.
Exercise is also important to produce serotonim and endorphins which gives you a good strong, confident feeling. He also recommends “maintaining a variety of intellectual interests also keeps the creative juices flowing…talk to people in other disciplines and read widely outside your field to develop ‘knowledge nodes’ – bits of unrelated information that can come together to produce an unexpected solution.” I have no doubt that God gave me a wide background to help be in ministry. I haven’t stopped and I think a lot of my interests have made me more effective in apologetics and also in reaching others for Christ that might not respond otherwise.
Whatever enhances my ministry in service to our Lord Jesus, nutrition, exercise, creativity serving my fellow Christians, I try to do and be as effective as possible. Don’t we all want that? Coffee Break Bible Study is still at First St Johns Wednesday mornings at 10am. 140 W King St, park behind the church in downtown York. If you have any suggestions about pulling together a group for an early breakfast or other functions, please let me know and God bless.
Pastoring is still such a new experience and adjustments. Twenty-nine years in the military, twenty years in corporations, I know the phrase has gotten kind of trite, but really, failure wasn’t an option. Failure happened, but you worked to find alternatives, to minimize the impact of failure. There just doesn’t seem to be that sort of dedication in the average, even above average Christian, pastor or laity for that matter. Rich Karlgaard is a great writer for Forbes and his article “Smarts in Business is not about IQ”, is right on the mark. (Forbes Magazine December 13, 2013 p 46)
I don’t know if it’s an excuse or a genuine fear, but Christian’s usual cop-out is “I don’t know enough to talk to other people about Jesus.” It’s not really about what you know, the average person isn’t going to ask you technical questions, the Bible, it is about relationship, staying in touch, being tenacious. You’re tough and tenacious at the office, why can’t we be the same when we are talking to someone about the Lord of your life, your Savior?
“The smartest people in business are not those who have the highest g; they are those who regularly put themselves in situations requiring grit. These acts of courage accelerate learning through adaptation.”
It’s the old ‘you only learn by doing’ philosophy. Be honest, you see situations where you should be talking to someone about Jesus and then avoid getting involved. Witnessing requires a level of comfort and the only way you will be comfortable is by looking for the opportunities and jumping in, I assure you no one is going to bite you. It’s not a works thing, it’s not required for you to be saved. But Scripture tells us that we will be known by our fruits, seems to me the average Christian’s fruits on display to the world is “run away!!”. How does that show the world our devotion to Jesus?
Karlgaard’s observation is a challenge to us to jump into the fray and be less concerned about our precious dignity and more concerned about how the Holy Spirit is working through us: “By facing up to the task of making a call, frequent callers put themselves on a faster learning curve. They discover more rapidly what works and what doesn’t. They’re quicker to learn techniques that overcome rejection. Thus, their success yield will improve…The act of making lots of calls also helps a person learn self-discipline and understand the rewards of delayed gratification.”
Yes, it is all about the Holy Spirit and what He does. We can’t talk someone into the Kingdom, we can’t by our own power be saved. But we can be faithful, we can trust what the Holy Spirit is doing with us in relation to someone else. This is the most important aspect of someone’s existence, eternal salvation. Care enough about them to trust the Spirit’s leading and then know that your reward waits for you when the Father says to you “…well done good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21). Let’s talk about it Wednesday morning 10am at First St Johns, mid-week Bible study Coffee Break. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.