Are you a Generous Mind?

Are you a Generous Mind? If you are intrigued by the idea, this is a place to explore what it means to you. Our blog focuses on helping you to learn what it means to be generous with what you know. You will find helpful tips and encouraging examples that will inspire you to release your ideas to the world! Find out more at www.generousmind.com.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Rob Wassel Responds

One of our speakers at the #InnovationInMission live web event (watch the video here) was Rob Wassel, Executive Director of the Seeds Global Innovation Lab and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer for Pioneers. He shared a case study on how Pioneers navigated the process of implementing Design Thinking; which became the genesis of Seeds. While we answered a variety of questions right after his presentation, many more were left unanswered. Here are some follow-up answers from Rob to support your innovation work.

How should mission organizations change our recruitment practises (or not) to enhance innovation?
We must first acknowledge and accept that creativity and innovation can and will come from all levels of an organization. As such, we desire to tap the collective creativity and intelligence of the entire organization. When we’re able to push past a bias of “looking for innovative people,” it will allow us to see the creativity of people more fully, and in a different way. With uncountable recruitment practises in play, I can’t say which ones need to be changed. And, as such, I’m not convinced that a change in recruitment practises “enhance innovation.” Rather, I’d encourage innovation and allow what needs to emerge, including a novel manner in which we recruit. 

How do we create buy-in for innovative ideas in a global organization?
Creating buy-in for innovation is not unlike creating buy-in for any other significant change in an organization. It’s essential that we help people understand what it means to be innovative. So often, the word “innovation” is thrown around without clarifying what it means. At Seeds, we find that having a common language surrounding innovation is one of the greatest gifts we can provide for employees and executives alike. Secondly, leaving innovation as a nebulous concept will be the detriment of the company’s buy-in. Utilizing a process for innovation, whether it’s Design Thinking or another altogether, enables employees to become familiar with what it means (and just as importantly, does not mean) to be innovative. Leaders must capitalize upon our “early adopters,” helping them to evangelize the idea of deliberately pursuing innovation. From there, structuring a process for change in the organization will drive a new company culture that’s conducive to accepting innovative ideas. 

We like to say that innovation “buy-in” comes from pain or pleasure. Pleasure being the hope of a better future, (i.e. Kingdom meta-narrative). Only when the pain is so great, or the promise of a better future overwhelms us, will we be willing to leave our habitual ways of thinking and doing. Innovation is fun to talk about, as long as we’re talking about others. But when innovation rests on the doorstep of what we’ve spent years building and creating, our tendency is to anchor ourselves to the past. Innovation is threatening. Buy-in for innovation must come from a deep willingness to die to ourselves and what we’ve created in order to realize the higher good, that God want’s us to discover. 

What are some ways that those of us in developing nation contexts can practically incorporate innovation?
One of the greatest challenges that we face in the “innovation” space is the defining of the term. We find that empowering people to feel the freedom to “be innovative” only goes so far. While people may feel the freedom to create, they rarely take time from their daily tasks to make it happen. Consequently, a great gift you can give to a team in a developing nation is to carve out time specifically for you as a team to discuss ideas. The first few times that you do, it will undoubtedly be awkward, but push through it. What you’ll find is that over time, employees will recognize that you (the leader) are doing this to drive acceptance of ideas and creativity on the team. They’ll see your heart. They’ll see your passion. At the end of the day, you want them to see clearly that you’re devoted to seeing your mission complete. The best way to do that will not come from something you’ve already tried, but by something you will one day do. Because we believe that Design Thinking is a low-barrier, easy access model of innovation, the team at Seeds Global Innovation Lab have dedicated their focus on leveraging and teaching that model. Begin reading about and applying low-risk challenges through a Design paradigm and you’ll be surprised how far you get!

With the acceleration of the speed of change, what are some key resources you would recommend for us to stay informed?
While I read a great deal from magazines and periodicals, many of them are opinionated and quite secular. Nevertheless, they are helpful to better understand culture, economics and government. Some of my top magazine reads are MIT Sloan Management Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Entrepreneur, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and The Economist. Brett King’s book, Augmented is a great read as well. Research the idea of “Social Acceleration” to better understand how society is in a state of hyper-speed. 

Innovation is disruptive by design – what are your thoughts on creating a buffer between a highly creative design space and critical core systems where untested changes can cause ripple effects that take huge energy to recover?
Some would argue that innovation should take place in a sterilized environment in which innovation’s effect will be limited so as to protect the core business. This is not always bad, yet can often be rooted in conservatism – or even fear. In the Design Thinking process, the final stage is Testing, in which the team receives in-depth feedback around the “solution.” This ignites a process of iterative refining that gets the “solution” closer to what the end-user really needs and wants. The Testing stage provides a buffer so as to not affect critical systems while simultaneously delivering a solution that will meet the needs of the end-user. Conservatism calls for protecting the core business from disruption. Innovation pushes the boundaries, even at a risk, for greater success in the future. It is with certainty that we can say that a business will not be transformed by doing what they’ve always done; it will come by doing something they’ve, generally, never done. A wonderful trait of Design Thinking is that it allows for iterative testing of prototypes in an way that, if done well *(continually testing with one’s “end-users” to gain more insights) will create less of a ripple effect on the financial model or typical flow of business. I’m not suggesting it is easy, however, I would not recommend isolating innovation in a “lab” as a protective mechanism. There is a whole science behind your question. I would recommend further researching “the back end of innovation.”

Could you give us examples of your team's greatest innovation?
It is important to define the idea of "our team's greatest innovations." The Seeds team is not the team that creates innovations, rather our team facilitates others to do so. As such, we've facilitated several internal projects with Pioneers. In doing so, Seeds lab facilitates those teams to discover solutions to their own challenges. They create solutions through the innovation (Design Thinking) process. Seeds is the guide on that journey that provides them with the tools and resources to both innovate around a single challenge and have the capacity to apply those learnings for future challenges. Due to proprietary restrictions, we cannot speak about projects we've done with external clients; several of which were outstanding innovations. While limited in scope now, our website will be updated at the end of May to include some of the organizations we've served.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Innovation in Mission

On April 24 at 11 a.m. Eastern, I will be hosting the 2nd annual Innovation In Mission live web event. I'm very excited about this time we will have to focus on the theme "Getting Innovation Done!"

But with the event right around the corner, I thought it might be helpful to share with you the top 10 reasons I think you should take the time to attend:

10. The event is online and only requires you to set aside an hour and a half in your busy day.

9. Many people say they want to be innovative, but do little to act on that goal. This is a simple thing you can do to begin your journey.

8. Rather than focusing on theory, this event will give you tangible things you can try to implement right after the event is over.

7. You will hear from actual innovation practitioners working in the nonprofit space, such as Rob Wassel from Pioneers.

6. You can gather a few of your co-workers together to watch it and learn as a group.

5. The audience will bring a richness to the event with all of their experience and diverse roles. Take a look at this word cloud of all the roles that were listed when people registered.


4. Attendees are registered from 21 countries including United States, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Nigeria, India, Benin, South Africa, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Mexico, Uruguay, Thailand, Germany, Paraguay, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, France, Canada, and United Kingdom)

3. You will be hearing from speakers with diverse background that range from Fortune 500 consulting (Carolina Salazar) to missiologists (JD Payne). 

2. We will be making a special announcement at the event about a unique ongoing opportunity to learn about innovation.

1. Advancing your skills in practicing innovation is key to your ability to have impact and be relevant in these constantly changing times. 

So, if you have registered, make sure you set the time aside and attend. If you haven't registered yet, visit www.innovationinmission.com and get registered for the April 24 event. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Where is the Innovation Content?

We have been doing less blogging in recent months. One of the reasons is that Jon Hirst has taken a role as a contributor for the Future Shapers Platform, a new innovation thought leadership platform.

In between posts we share here, please make sure to keep up with his posts on The Future Shapers by clicking here. 

5 Tech-Enabled Trends Impacting Missions

I recently wrote an article for the International Mission Board on 5 key trends that are tech-enabled and impacting missions. Take a moment to read the article and I would love your feedback. 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Same Reality . . . Different Filter


This Gary Varvel cartoon has been going around social media recently. I think it has gained traction because it highlights a fundamental reality of our world today. We all live in the same world but we use very different filters to understand it. 

Its like a photographer who takes one picture but then goes back to their computer and creates very different images through the use of the many filters and tools at their disposal. And you may find that you love one of those pictures and hate the other. The underlying reality was the same, but the filter put on it made you perceive it very differently. 

As a Generous Mind, my immediate thought is how generosity could address this very real issue that many of us face. And I think there is an easy answer. Instead of trying to convince people to like our filtered view of reality rather than the one they have chosen, why don't we start but being generous with our filter. What would that look like?

Well, for starters, it would mean sharing how we filter information with others. As Generous Minds we need to be open about the sources of information we trust, the way we look at the world and the values and beliefs that shape how we see things. If we did this, it might lead to more people understanding why we see the world the way we do. 

Secondly, we need to be willing to consider that our filter might have some problems. We may have some biases and assumptions that don't hold up very well. We may have some preconceived notions that have never been tested beyond our own echo chambers. 

Third, we need to use our generous example as a way to model this for others so they will share about their own filters. 

Once we understand the filters we use, we might be able to better discover the truth together. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . Jump

A year ago, this month, I helped wind down daily operations of GMI (Global Mapping International) as the CEO. While there were months left of work to finalize the shutdown, last year in August and September I took a sabbatical to ask God what might be next for our family in our Kingdom service.

As I have shared with many of you since then, we felt God challenging us to focus on the innovation space within a larger organization where we could invest in helping design new programs and redesign older ones that needed to be rethought. His leading seemed very specific and that is always a bit scary. With fear and trepidation, we decided to walk faithfully in it and see where things might go.

Since October, we have been patiently (sometimes not so patiently) listening to the Spirit’s voice, seeking to align our lives with His and building a platform to serve as an innovator.

I’m happy to announce that God has given us a clear next step that fulfills so many of the things we had been hoping and praying for. On August 1, I will begin my role as Director of Program Innovation for SIL International. Founded in 1934, SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development by means of research, translation, training and materials development. They have a unique role in language advocacy and development and also a key role in the Bible translation process. I have been so impressed with how SIL is seeking out the intersections of life and language and asking God how they can serve the Kingdom at those strategic points.

I am very excited to be joining SIL’s innovation group (called Innovation Development & Experimentation; IDX) and learning from a talented group of innovation leaders, entrepreneurs, data scientists, technologists and product managers. My role will focus on defining new programs to be developed and shepherding them through the innovation process until they can be successfully integrated into SIL’s core efforts. I have had the privilege to work with SIL’s Chief Innovation Development Officer, Steve Moitozo, for the past several months on a consulting project and have known him for several years before that because of GMI’s partnership with SIL. I know I have a lot to learn from him and look forward to working on his team and benefiting from his Godly leadership. I asked him to share a few words about my joining the team,


“At SIL we to want to help people do the things that matter most to them in the languages that mean the most to them. One of the key ways IDX enables SIL is by converting its ideas into healthy operational programs that help people thrive with their languages. I am excited that Jon has agreed to work with me and the IDX team as we help SIL innovate by doing new things with uncertain outcomes. I'm sure his mix of experiences, aptitudes, and heart will be a great compliment to SIL's innovation agenda.”
- Steve Moitozo


During this year of transition, I have learned many things. I have grown in patience, learned to listen more intentionally and increased my understanding the value of proximity and presence. I have invested strategically in my local community. I have invested in my wife and children and been blessed by their amazing personalities and gifts. I have sought out leaders and innovators around the globe in order to learn from their experiences. I have also had the great pleasure to serve as a consultant for some amazing organizations who asked me to help them during this time. I’m so grateful to each of these organizations (and my many friends and partners within them) for allowing me to come alongside them: Spoken Worldwide, SIM International, David C Cook, Tyndale House Foundation, 1615, Community Bible Study, Radio HCJB, In Christ Communications, the Retirement Reformation, Camino Global, and SIL International.

But as I jump into this next role, the thing I am most aware of is the hundreds of people who have been praying with and for me and my family in this transition. I have cherished your kind emails, encouraging words and genuine concern. Your faithfulness in prayer and support have given Mindy and I the confidence to wait patiently for God to give us direction; knowing He would provide for our needs. I would request that you continue to pray for us as we dive into this new challenge.

I look forward to being in touch with many of you in my new role. I will still be blogging here at Generous Mind and on The Future Shapers. I will also continue doing the innovation webinars. I can’t wait to see how God will use this new season of learning, working and leading to grow me, encourage others and bless the Kingdom.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Where did all the Farmers Go?

Click to view original chart. 
In this NPR interactive visualization we see the how the percent of US jobs in five categories has changed between 1850 and 2013. Wow, what a difference 163 years makes. A sector (Service) that hardly existed has steadily grown and Blue Collar work has stayed surprisingly steady. The real change is the move from making the food to sitting at a desk eating the food as we type away on our computers.

Study this chart for a few minutes and think about the changes that this visualization represents. Rural to urban . . . family business to big corporations . . . active to sedentary . . . local to global, and on and on.

Think about your family and go back a generation or two. How have these trends played out in your own family tree?

This chart has me asking a few basic questions:

  1. Who is growing our food today anyway? 
  2. How much more will the Service Sector grow and will it grow to the detriment of Blue or White Collar work?
  3. Is White Collar work already plateauing? 
What are your questions? What will you do differently as you look around your would this week with this new perspective?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Beyond Puzzles: Innovating in Complex Systems


As many of you know, I have been invited to be a regular contributor on The Future Shapers. Read my announcement here. It is an innovation thought leadership platform that is striving to deliver content with some innovative new business models.

I'm looking forward to sharing the unique perspective God has given me about innovation on this platform and I hope you will take some time to explore the content on the platform and connect with my articles as well as the articles of other thought leaders.

My first article is about the importance of perspective and accountability in innovation. Here are a few key quotes. I hope you will click through and read the full article. 

"But in a world of integrated ecosystems, there are endless possible next steps with countless potential endings . . . and, like those immersive adventures, not all of them are good. An innovator is almost never handed a jigsaw puzzle type of challenge."

"Navigating integrated ecosystems is central to mature innovation efforts within organizations. And this navigation effort requires understanding two concepts that are not often seen as core to innovation: perspective and accountability."

“Learn to see great things great and small things small.” Corrie Ten Boom

"As our ability to see the situation in front of us from different perspective grows, our need to understand accountability also grows. Just as perspective untangles the complexity of organizational innovation, understanding accountability does the same. Wikipedia talks about accountability as 'answerability.'"

"When we are able to change perspective just-in-time and navigate layers of accountability with courage, we are well positioned to deliver innovation within the organization we serve."