Ministry Innovation Requires a Bias Toward Action

Dwight Towers wrote a post last week reminding us that a lot of people have their ideas rejected not because everyone else is stupid, but because their ideas aren’t actually very good.  He was basically taking on the commonly used Galileo’s Gambit, which goes like this:

They made fun of Galileo, and he was right.
They make fun of me, therefore I am right.

This is obviously a logical fallacy.  Carl Sagan’s response to this idea was:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

It’s easiest to hold this view when your idea is just an idea – the best way to work around it is to try your idea out.  This is because the value of an idea is often only found once we try to use it.  There is often a huge lag between when we first see a new idea and when we really find out what it is good for – this is when we are working through business model innovation.  In his great book Pasteur’s Quadrant, Donald Stokes says this:

…the notable examples from the annals of technology, detailed by Rosenberg and others, in which it took many years for a new technology to find its most important commercial uses.  The steam engine was initially seen as a device for pumping water from mines and only later as a power plant for movable ships or carriages.  The railroad was initially seen as a feeder of good for canal transport and only later as a fully articulated system of transportation in its own right. The radio was initially seen as a “wireless” substitute for the electric telegraph for communicating between two ponits that could not be connected by wire, such as ship to shore, and only later as a means of “broadcasting” communication to a mass audience.  Indeed, this is is an almost universal phenomenon in the evolution of technology.  New technological paradigms seldom spring full-blown from the minds of their inventors, and when they do, as in the case of Arthur Clarke’s vision of communications satellites, the visionary is unlikely to be the person who makes the technological dream come true.

Stokes is arguing in the book for a reconceptualisation of research.  For quite a while now we have tended to view research as either basic – concerned with discovering new knowledge, but not with use – from applied – concerned only with use.  Stokes instead argues that a great deal of important research comes from work that considers both knowledge discovery and use.

There are a couple of important points here.

First, it’s not enough to have a great idea – you have to actually try it out to find out if it’s any good.  That is how you avoid the Galileo Gambit.

Second, even if the idea works, we often don’t know what it’s actually good for.  To discover this, we have to put it into use.

Consequently, the best innovation comes when we are concerned with both discovery and use.

Put it all together, and it means that innovation requires a bias towards action.

Read more from Tim here.

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Tim Kastelle

Tim Kastelle

Tim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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