Most innovations fail. That is innovation’s dirt little secret. I hope that does not ruin the book for you, but it is the point of the first chapter in Larry’s Osborne’s Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret. Most organizations, churches included, have to think through how to try new things and how to develop new strategies for dealing with change and to accommodate continued growth. Osborne’s own church has helped pioneer several innovations in modern ministry, so he has plenty of experience with this issue. There were three sections of this work that challenged me as I think about how to approach change and growth.
Osborne speaks of the importance of planning in pencil. Too often, when leaders decide on a course of action they embark on that course full speed ahead as if what they are doing is the only option. He emphasizes the importance of saying that a particular action is “what we are doing now.” Thinking this way is important because it allows for midcourse corrections that will improve the decided action. What enables this kind of correction and thinking is operating by guiding principles instead of rigid instruction. Osborne wisely councils leaders to, “never fall in love with your first draft- or your latest draft.”
Osborne encourages leaders to have a bias towards action. It is easy for any organization to fall into paralysis by analysis and to study an issue ad nauseam rather than choosing a course of action and getting starting. He locates the motivation for this lack of action in the fear of failure. Fear begs for more evidence and wants to see all risk removed from the equation. Here is where Osborne’s call to plan in pencil is so helpful. It is impossible to remove all risk from a decision, so choose a course of action and get started. Since you’ve planned in pencil and decided that this is what you are going to do for now, you can make midcourse corrections. Just get started. It is hard to steer a parked car.
Osborne hits a home run when he reminds us that unlimited and constant growth are a myth. This is important because too often when growth slows an organization panics and adopts a strategy that contradicts their values or that is an unnecessary risk. The antidote for this is to have a healthy view of reality and to begin thinking through healthy options for continued progress and depth.
Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is packed full of practical wisdom. Larry Osborne speaks from years of experience and leaders would do well to listen to him.
(I was provided with a copy of this work through the Cross Focused Reviews program in exchange for an honest review of its content.)
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