Sunday, July 8, 2012

Innovative Leadership, Cutting Edge Christianity and the Quest for Poisonous Mushrooms

Innovation and creativity are birthed on the cutting edge.

Who were the first people to discover which mushrooms were poisonous? I imagine a group of people with clipboards walking through a field, and saying, 'Look, over there, that's a different variety! Ok, now, who's going to have a try?'


Why not share your story of innovation by commenting below?

Joe Flower reflects on a conversation with author Richard Pascale who wrote, along with Mark Millemann and Linda Gioja, Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business. (Crown Business, 2000). He writes, 'Innovation increases near the edge of chaos. In the face of threat or opportunity, living things move toward the edge of chaos, into more mutation and experimentation'.

In business life, you only need to think of IBM's challenge from other entrepreneurial, innovative start-up businesses that began to strongly compete with IBM's desktop computer. All of a sudden, IBM is near the edge of chaos, needing to adapt and innovate to survive as a business.

What about Kodak? While other businesses were experimenting with new forms of digital photography, Kodak were still winding up their cameras with the roll of film hoping this was all just a bad dream. Finally they adapted and innovated.

The classic is of a business called Western Union who were a very profitable business in the late 1800s, because of the telegram. Alexander Graham Bell came along and invented the telephone, and the capacity for people three blocks away from each other to communicate without having to catch up for coffee! Western Union basically said, 'We're happy with the telegram', and Alexander Graham Bell went off and started his own business with his new telephone invention. Needless to say, Western Union began to surf the edge of mediocrity while Bell's business thrived. Alexander Graham Bell was an innovative leader.

In Kouzes and Posner's The Truth About Leadership (2010 - well worth a read!) they say that one of the qualities leaders need is the ability to focus on the future. They say:
Having surveyed thousands of people on what they want in their leaders, in someone they would willingly follow, the quality of being forward-looking is second only to being honest as their most admired leader quality (p. 46, The Truth About Leadership).
To be innovative, or to be on the cutting edge in leadership is to go one step further. While good leaders are forward-focused, great leaders are able to put ideas/thoughts into action that create innovative results. To merely be focused on the future, makes me think of an old man slumped on the couch, contemplating eternal life with Jesus. To be cutting edge, or on the cutting edge, is to take the ideas and dreams and find innovative ways to implement them!

Find some leadership tips on creating change and innovation here.


Christianity has needed to adapt to survive. Or more concisely, the methodology in which we communicate and express the gospel message has needed to adapt to be relevant and transformative within each culture. There have been many innovative Christians surfing the edge of chaos over the years, and Church history shows the struggles we have had with cutting edge Christianity.

John Wycliffe, from England, in the 14th century transposed the Bible into the then modern day language (Now called 'Wycliffe's Bible' and completed in 1382). Following John Wycliffe's death, some 31 years later, the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe to be a heretic, and had his books burned up and his human remains exhumed. Taking the Word of God and making it available and rather, accessible to the average person was innovative and cutting edge.

Not all Catholics enjoyed Nicolaus Copernicus' release of De Revolutionibus, in which he proved that the earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around! His heliocentric cosmology was at the cutting edge of scientific thought, and along with other innovative leaders like Galileo, Newton and Kepler, began to usher in a new epoch of rational thinking, that transformed the world. Copernicus was innovative and cutting edge. He also knew where true innovation came from, 'So vast, without any question, is the Divine Handiwork of the Almighty Creator!' (1543). See Owen Gingerich's God's Universe for more on Copernicus.

Some Christians were not even so much as innovative as they were determined. Mother Theresa was determined to not be distracted from helping the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. Martin Luther King Jr. was determined to see his dream fulfilled of all the nationalities sitting around the table of brotherhood. Nelson Mandela was determined to work for reconciliation even after almost three decades in a South African jail.

John Wesley was innovative when he decided to take the same message preached in the four walls of a church building, and ride on a horse to preach to thousands upon thousands of listeners.

William and Catherine Booth were innovative when they rejigged the pub songs of the day to overtly Christian lyrics, and in large groups marched down the streets of London, as The Salvation Army, worshipping God.

Musician, Bono was innovative and somewhat subversive when he released "I still haven't found what I'm looking for", highlighting the quest for purpose and meaning in the lives of millions of people.

Billy Graham was innovative in his generation when he booked out stadiums to preach the gospel to millions.

The Jesus Film is innovative, and has been an evangelical tool to reach millions of people in predominately countries that are not supportive of the Christian message.

What about XXX Church? Its main aim is to help people recover from porn addiction.

What about 'Salvos Legal'?
Salvos Legal is a world first not-for-profit law firm owned and run by The Salvation Army. We specialise in property and transactional commercial law to assist individuals, businesses and corporates by providing professional legal advice and assistance with a difference.  The difference is that the costs paid by those clients for their legal services fund the operation of another firm, Salvos Legal Humanitarian, which operates to provide free legal advice and assistance to those most in need without any fee.  ( - 8/7/12)

Cutting edge Christianity is not easy. John Wesley, William and Catherine Booth, Billy Graham, Bono and countless others have been criticised for their innovativeness, (and passion, zeal, etc.).

I offer this thought on the cutting edge philosophy:
When you are on the cutting edge people off to the side, cannot understand what you understand and cannot see what you see. Their lack of proximity affects their perception.
Cutting edge people occasionally get cut. They are criticised, misunderstood and are quite often suppressed organizationally (business, church, sporting groups, etc). I'm sure some could write an essay on that one...

What the people of God need today, are those who are willing to be creative, innovative and passionate enough to follow through on their God-given dreams and be willing to surf the edge of chaos. This is not to be disrespectful to others or people in God-given authority, but rather to find creative ways to implement Spirit-led convictions.

We no longer need bland Christianity...

Let me explain. The Christian music industry, for instance, rarely records new and innovative music that is cutting edge. Why? The industry is known to wait until the Secular Music industry has tried and tested a new style/form of music, and once many have embraced the style, then the Christian music industry will give it a shot. The result? Christian music is never cutting edge, and always three years behind the eight ball! Safe Christianity. (Maybe they argue that it is like this for purely financial reasons, but nonetheless, it is still safe a little bit pathetic.)

Give it a shot. Be innovative. Innovate. Be an innovative leader. I give you, for what it's worth, permission to fail, permission to try and permission to 'have a go'. Once you do that, maybe then we will begin entering a stage of...

Cutting Edge Christianity.


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  1. I was involved in a pageant and had the Salvation Army as my platform. As a first generation Salvationist that received mixed reviews. The clothing worn during the pageant were from the Salvation Army Family Store. I am also a local commissioned officer as the Assistant Home League Secretary, as well as other areas of leadership at the Portland Tabernacle Corps in Oregon,USA.


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