Could Your Success Today Kill Your Innovation Tomorrow?

Do you have the resources necessary for your job?

What about your department or organization? At our church, we challenge the leadership to ask that question frequently. The thought is simple and logical – if you don’t have the resources you need to succeed, we want to help fill in the gaps – within reason, of course.

When I first arrived at Watermarke Church, we were FAR from resourced. We existed as a hand-to-mouth organization. Every dollar we received left as it arrived. Every offering was critical. Every check was necessary. For two years, we scratched and clawed our way. It was a difficult season, but it was also a season full of fun and challenge … and innovation.

Then, after two years, we converted our church partnership into a campus location of North Point Ministries. Many things changed. And by many, I mean nearly everything. But our resources changed the most. Overnight, we went from being under-resourced to winning the church resource lottery (not really, but it felt that way). There were no blank checks, but we immediately improved financially. Within weeks our church began to take on new staff and new equipment. Our services improved. Our technology improved. Our leadership bench improved.

But… our innovative spirit began to wane. It was hardly noticeable, because our church was getting better, which feels a lot like innovation. But improvement is not equivalent to innovation.

Now, three years into our transition, I can clearly see that our initial lack of resources was the fuel for our innovative spirit. I never would have guessed that was true when we were under-resourced, though. I firmly believed in those early days our lack of resources KEPT us from innovating. In some respects that was true. We could not purchase everything we needed. We could not create the full environments we desired. So we improvised. We got creative. In short, we were innovative.

I now believe the more resourced you are, the less innovative you are required to be. Why? Because innovation is not just a skill-set, it’s a mindset. In fact, it might be mostly a mindset.

Whether you are resourced or not, here are five ways we can remain innovative:

1. Allow your resource gaps to fuel your innovative leaps.

Every organization has a resource gap of some sort. It’s natural to try closing the gap. As a leader, don’t allow one question (How can we get more resources?) to destroy a better question (How can we get better within our resources?).

2. Enjoy success, but stay hungry.

Leaders must refuse complacency and the status quo. Resources typically come from success, and success can work against innovation. It becomes very tempting to protect what you have when you have something to protect.

3. Find a problem to solve.

Innovation is a muscle and problems (i.e., lack of resources) provide the resistance required to grow. Solving a problem comes from a resourceful mindset, and as we said, innovation is one part skill-set and one part mindset.

4. Reduce your expense budget.

Literally. If you try to execute tomorrow with less resources than you did today, you will force innovation. What’s more, you’ll have more financial margin to take advantage of your innovations. Win-win.

5. Ask a different question.

“Do you have the resources necessary for your job?” is a good question – we should continue asking it. And we should buy people a printer or a stapler when necessary. Here is a new question I’m beginning to ask our leadership: “SHOULD we have all the resources we need for our job?” Or maybe “What can we do with what we have?”

There’s a reason thousands of churches are sitting on a mountain of resources with no people to fill their seats. My guess is their past success provided resources, and their resources drove away their innovation. I hope you are massively resourced! I just hope more that your resources don’t kill your innovative spirit.

How have you seen innovation thrive under financial pressure?

  3Comments

  1. Alexander Hacker   •  

    I grew up in a small church in Ladson, SC. I began doing student ministry as a high school student and shortly after graduating high school I stepped into a volunteer leadership position. Being a small ministry we had very few resources and many issues that required resources to be fixed. I saw those around me learn and grow under this pressure. Innovation was necessary every week. We were by no means perfect and often times we were probably inefficient, but we did not have a lack of innovation and that innovation always produced growth within our leaders. Now, years later, I’m a member at Watermarke Church and a small group leader at InsideOut. When I first came to Watermarke I was concerned that being apart of NPMI and having a seemingly unlimited amount of resources would prevent innovation. I have met some who have a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality (which, to me is indicative of a lack of innovation) however most leaders I have interacted with at Watermarke have been constantly seeking alternative ways to do things and have thusly encouraging growth in the people they work with. I write all this to say that as a member of Watermarke Church I am grateful for you and the leaders around you who are intentional about creating an innovative mindset within their teams. We all see and feel the effects of it.

    Thank you,

    -Alex

    • Gavin Adams   •     Author

      Thanks, Alex. What is interesting about Watermarke is that even though we are very large and well-resourced, our facilities, parking issues, etc., have created an ongoing need for innovative thinking. Our challenge will be to maintain this thinking in the coming years as we move into a building.
      Thanks for what you are doing in InsideOut. You are making a difference in the lives of students!

      • Alexander Hacker   •  

        I appreciate your response Gavin, and I look forward to growing with Watermarke in the coming years as we move and grow.

        -Alex

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