October 17, 2016

Ideas, Part Four: You Don’t Need Any More Ideas

The title of this post may seem contradictory. But I promise you, it’s not. We’ve spent several weeks here talking about ideas. We’ve talked about paying attention to the things that grab your attention, about sharing and building on ideas with others, and about adapting others’ good ideas for our contexts. Like any series, this one must come to an end.

And like any good idea, it actually has to be put into practice for it to mean anything.

The patent for the common mousetrap design was filed in 1899. We’re still using that design more than 110 years later, but everyone keeps trying to build a better mousetrap. The US Patent Office receives more than 400 new mousetrap patents every year, and has granted more than 4400 mousetrap patents since 1899. There’s no shortage of ideas. But fewer than 20 mousetrap designs have led to products that have actually made money. The problem isn’t generating ideas; it is overcoming the obstacles and executing your new idea.

To be a creator or innovator is to take a bet that you can overcome a hundred different kinds of challenges that no person could ever entirely prepare for. It’s to realize, or simply pretend to ignore, that you will face challenges that slice across countless areas of life and ministry.

There’s no real secret to it. In my years studying innovation, there’s one fact that’s the hardest for people to swallow: To invent or create is to take a bet against the unknown. No matter what you do, you are still betting you can do well in the face of many things that are out of your control. Don’t like that? Can't take the uncertainty? Then do something else.

Comfort with risk and uncertainty is the real secret.

Jesus’ command to us, to make disciples of all nations, didn’t come with the caveat to “only go when we are ready,” or “only go when we think we’ve figured everything out.” Jesus’ command is simple: Go.

We don’t know what obstacles will come. We don’t know what new things will pop up that might derail our plans. But we also don’t know what wonderful things God has in store for us. We’re talking about faith here. Faith that what we are participating in is God’s mission, and that the Holy Spirit is with us.

You have all the ideas you need. But more than that, you have the Holy Spirit. Now go!

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