New ideas, solutions, and approaches to problem-solving require times of solitude and reflection. In short, you need time to think. Margaret Wheatley, an author and consultant in the field of strategic planning, summed it up best: “innovation requires thinking and thinking requires time.”
So assuming you have set aside some time to think, what do you do with that time?
Below is a formula for innovative problem solving. It includes four questions made up of just eight letters:
Me?– the personal question
It? – The structural question
Us? – The relational question
Ah!? – The strategic question
The Me? Question: The Personal Issue
As a leader, more often than not, when I’ve asked this question, I’ve come to discover that my habits, routines, or relationships are preventing me or my church from going to the next level. When that happens, I’ve got to start with “self-innovation.” It’s time to change me.
When looking for an innovative solution, first look at your own habits, the way you approach your job, and the way you carry out your leadership. Pray, ask God for His wisdom, assess yourself, and then change!
For example, at one of my previous churches, we had a parking constraint that limited our ability to grow. The solution we came up with was to move from two services to three. However, we had a hard time figuring out a schedule that allowed for three services. Part of the problem was the length of my sermons. So after 25 plus years of preparing 40-45 minute sermons, I needed to change my habits and preach 30-minute sermons.
The It? Question: The Structural Issue
He lamented his heavy load of administration, counseling appointments, and the number of ministry leaders he had to meet with one-on-one. These leaders managed his five most critical ministry teams.
I asked him, “Have you considered changing your structure? You’re meeting with five different team leaders to check up on how their teams are doing, and that takes a lot of time. Why not create a board and have all five team-leaders meet once a month with you?”
During that meeting, he can have each one of the leaders give him an update on their ministries, and then he can provide them some input to encourage and build them up. This structural change to his leadership team turned five meetings into one. It freed up more time for his “main thing” (sermon preparation) and as an added benefit his leaders could begin to bond as a group and learn to draw on one another for help.
The Us? Question: The Relationship Issue
People are what empower us. They are our greatest resource. Therefore, we need to be careful about who we spend our time with. Many of us develop a close circle of relationships that stay the same for a long time, and as a result we put ourselves into a relational rut.
Creativity is nurtured by meeting new people, building new alliances, and discovering new mentors who can take your leadership or your organization to the next level.
This doesn’t mean you should go out and replace your entire network of friends and associates. As a leader, you always need some quality, long-term relationships; a few great friends who share your core values, encourage you, and provide honest accountability.
But to grow, you must reserve some relational space for people who can stretch you beyond your past. Be wise and careful with your relational time because it’s one of your most valuable investment opportunities for the future.
The Ah!? Question: The Strategic Issue
We had to ask ourselves that question at our church when we faced the reality of a changing community demographic. Our congregation was loving, open to all, but still predominantly Caucasian and western European in worship style on Sunday morning.
When the latest population census revealed that our county was now about 48% Caucasian and 52% “other,” we launched a strategic initiative to offer a new worship service designed to serve the other 52% of our community.
The result? There is now a growing percentage of families from a wide variety of non-Caucasian ethnicities who feel at home in our church.
Set aside some time to think innovatively this week. Choose an area of your ministry that needs innovation, think “me, it, us, ah.” Share your solutions below so we can all benefit!