Team Culture: Innovation


A short while ago I began a series on team culture [see here and here] that I wanted to see take hold among our leaders at theWELL. Today, I’ll continue with the subject of Innovation.

With the arrival of the Information Age, we have witnessed the arrival of new technologies at breakneck speeds. Our exposure to this information is staggering when you take a moment to realize just how plugged in and connected we really are. And with that connectedness, we are open to a constant stream of fresh thoughts and ideas, each one shouting their worthiness for our consideration.

This is all well and good, except the overdose of ideas tends to send us into overload. We are overloaded with talent and creativity, almost frightened to try anything new for fear that we’ve chosen the wrong idea to cling to. We have gone from too few options to having too many. All the while, innovation waits, begging us for a chance to be used.

You see, there is a disparity between creativity and innovation. Creativity originates ideas; innovation puts them into practice. The difference between the two is production. Innovation produces.

There’s an interesting story about Steve Jobs from Steven Levy’s book Insanely Great:

Jobs’s speeches were punctuated by slogans. Perhaps the most telling epigram of all was a three-word koan that Jobs scrawled on an easel in January 1983, when the project [the release of the first Mac] was months overdue. REAL ARTISTS SHIP. It was an awesome encapsulation of the ground rules in the age of technological expression. The term “starving artist” was now an oxymoron.

As the leadership team for theWELL, we value innovation over creativity because innovation simply gets things done. Creativity is a vital part of the process, but if all we’re left with at the end of a brainstorming session is a bunch of new ideas, we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution to bring hope and healing to the earth. We end up having a lot of great ideas, but very few actions steps to put our faith into practice.

Anyone can have an idea, but it takes someone motivated by a deeper sense of calling and duty to do something great with it.

And we want to do great things. We’ve been called by a great God, compelled by a Great Commandment, and burdened with a Great Commission. Greatness is beckoning all those who would venture to throw off the status quo and lean into the infintely wise and creative God who is constantly inspiring the attentive.

So we can agree that innovation is more than just an idea. Innovation occurs when the Holy Spirit challenges a methodology or a mindset–a wineskin, if you will–so the recipient has some measurable action for which he is responsible. Innovation challenges the way things are done in order to create room for God to move in a greater way.

Unfortunately, it seems as if the Church is the least innovative people around, even though the very Spirit of God lives inside us. The answer to this is learning to treasure His voice and being obedient to the plans He gives us, no matter how far off from normal and comfortable they are. A leadership team filled with people who do exactly this are the kind of people we want having an influential voice in our community.

How important do you view innovation in the context of a leadership team? What about the organization at large?


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