Mark Berry [UK]
"Fostering and Developing Entrepreneurs in Mission"


There is currently a many voiced call to release the entrepreneurs in our culture… in the worlds of business and culture and, in some ways surprisingly there are voices in the Christian world too calling for innovation and innovators. Perhaps this is to do with the changing paradigm in which we live and breathe, perhaps it is the beginnings of not only a response to its challenges but a reflection of it’s natures. For many people and many years culture has been perceived as the bedrock on which we build, the things which sustain the status quo, the things which make us identifiable as British, Christian, European, etc. etc. In the Church Mission has been tacitly a tool of maintenance, a means to preserve the way we are or at least the way we perceive we are. Perhaps change is afoot? Mission not as a way of bracing the Church as it is, rather as engaging with the culture, seeing people not as products or numbers but as individual seedlings growing from the soil of their own history and context. Not a Church seeking to be relevant, but to be resonant. More and more voices are crying that instead of attractors we need innovators, instead of church planters we need entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage. - Niccolo Machiavelli

People who imagine the future, who look for possibilities not programmes.

Christendom is dying but a new and dynamic Christianity could arise from its ashes. - Stuart Murray

Inspired by Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom, particularly their book Funky Business (2001) along with other writers such as Tom Peters and Bill Bolton, I have begun to explore some principles for encouraging entrepreneurs.

1. Recognition
Bill Bolton has written extensively on how to identify the entrepreneur. In his Grove Booklet The Entrepreneur and The Church (2006) he creates the acronym FACETS;

Focus – delivery
Advantage – selection of opportunity
Creativity – seeing many opportunities
Ego - motivation and courage
– multiplying effectiveness
– finding a cause.

Bolton with Professor John Thompson developed this tool to help begin to identify and understand the entrepreneurs within a business/academic environment but has since begun to use it in a Church/Mission setting.

This is incredibly useful but I also think that most of us can spot an entrepreneur instinctively, the question then becomes how are they recognised and released? I am also sure that most of us can remember a situation or an incident where an entrepreneur has been dismissed as just “rocking the boat” or “being awkward”. One of the great challenges we have is are we really able to join Sir Francis Drake when he prayed;

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Journeying out requires the capacity to rise above the anxiety associated with encountering and embracing a potentially overwhelming, outside world. – Ann Morissy

Entrepreneurs are often the voices from the margins, liminal voices. Douglas Rushkoff in his book, Children of Chaos (updated as Playing the Future in 1999) calls us to think like new immigrants in a strange land, exiles one might say! He proposes that we “look to our children for signs of how to act and think. Natives of chaos, they have already adapted to its demands.” Often the voice of the entrepreneur is that of someone who “belongs” to neither culture, yet is passionate about both, who is native to the chaos…

Post-christendom… requires leaders who listen to the voices on the edge. This is where the apostle, the prophet and the poet are found. – Alan Roxburgh

The entrepreneurial voice is the voice of the poet and the prophet who more often than not feel constricted by institution and culture.

Another way of thinking about this poetic/prophetic voice is Poïesis, which Martin Heidegger describes as “he blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt”. The root of our word poetry, Poïesis means to create in a way that transforms and continues the world, to reconcile thought with matter and time.

The work of poetic imagination holds the potential of unleashing a community of power and action that will finally not be contained by any imperial restrictions and definitions of reality – Walter Brueggemann

Identifying, recognising and releasing the entrepreneurs can be vital and creative. If we are to find new ways of being Mission and resonating with culture and people we need to see entrepreneurs as pioneers and allow them to participate, to lead, to create. Solomon’s Porch in the Linden Hills area of Minneapolis give testimony to this;

There can be a tendency in Christian circles to complain about how things are. But creativity is providing a new way of living, seeing, hearing, or being, and we were blessed with several people who love the process of seeing a possibility and turning into something tangible. – Doug Pagitt

2. Direction
When we think of direction and development we are too often tempted into thinking about control and curriculum, what Paulo Freire would describe as a “Banking method” depositing the ‘appropriate’ information on a “need to know basis” and then leaving them to apply it. Entrepreneurs do not simply need to be “wound up and set off” releasing entrepreneurs is neither a matter of simply letting go nor one of delegation. Entrepreneurs need equal measures of freedom and direction in a context of continual development.

Direction is not a matter of command and control, but of focussing, allowing and encouraging people to focus on what really matters. It is spiritual management rather than micromanagement. In a chaotic world, people cry out for individuals who can provide meaning for their… lives... Development is about mentoring, training disciples and coaching. It is the job of leaders to create new leaders. Leadership is about contaminating and being contaminated with knowledge. The distinction between learning, working and living is gone – it is one and the same things - Ridderstrale and Nordstrom

Note that Ridderstrale and Nordstrom are not writing as Christians about the Church/Mission but as Businessmen about the world of Business and Marketting. They challenge Business Leaders to move away from being CEOs to being CSOs – Chief Storytelling Officers, who communicate the foundation stories and vision of a business, passing on the DNA of the company not a list of tasks and responsibilities, freeing ‘employees’ to determine action within the narrative and core values. Managers become Mentors who learn with the employee. A more familiar picture for Christians might be the Celtic idea of Anam Chara – the Soul Friend.

Each person in the community was responsible to an anamchara, which means souls friend. The idea of the soul friend comes directly from the desert communities. There, the soul friend would be a kind of spiritual guide and counsellor, one with whom you share your own spiritual growth. These soul friends were a very important part of the support structure of the Celtic communities, and there was a well known saying that a person without a soul friend was like a body without a head. – Michael Mitton.

I believe that we need to challenge our systems, particularly our educational ones to think creatively and dynamically about how we think about direction and development as well as our institutional structures.

Our education systems, including theological colleges, are all too often learning regimes rather than talent spotters and developers – Bill Bolton

This will mean making a psychological shift from education seen as ‘experts’ imparting knowledge to the ‘ignorant’, knowledge that the educators determine as valuable to the learner, to development as an ongoing equipping; handing on tools for reflection and learning on and in practice. Entrepreneurs are unfinished products, and in many ways always will be and learning needs to be “life-long”, praxiological, reflective and creative, an ongoing process in the context and medium of action. We need to see direction and development as community activities, a part of the rhythm and life of a community of mission.

3. Personalization
Personalization firstly means moving from a system/practice where we have a list of jobs/roles and look for people to fill them, to one where we look at individuals and ask what they add.

Human beings are not bulk goods. They come in different shapes and forms. Each and every individual is different. Every now and then this is brought to our attention. But change takes time. It took the car industry close to 100 years to realize that women are not small men. We are moving to one-to-one leadership. The consequence is that each and every little system needs to be personalized. People can be treated and approached, evaluated and rewarded, motivated and inspired in a number of different ways… People do not enjoy being treated as human resources or as a nameless and faceless customer x; they want to be seen and recognized as individuals. We have to tap the hidden treasures of the extended organizational tribe and its members. We have to start competing on the basis of feelings and fantasy – emotion and imagination… How can we expect to motivate and inspire people when we have not got a clue about what makes them tick? We should all learn something from Herb Kelleher at southwest airlines. “we are not afraid to talk to our people with emotions. We’re not afraid to tell them. ‘we love you’ because we do.” - Ridderstrale and Nordstrom

Secondly it means developing vulnerable leadership and community participation, where leadership is not a position to be defended and ‘obedience’ a sign of loyalty rather it seeks to grow a pattern of community/culture which sees loyalty demonstrated by involvement , critique and engagement with the story of the community .

Passive obedience was once mistaken for loyalty. The entire notion of loyalty was wrapped up with control. Now, people are not loyal in a slavish sense. This is based on the realization that you can question the system without being disloyal. – Brian Baxter

A culture where critique and challenge is actively encouraged will provide fertile ground for entrepreneurs as they will feel liberated and encouraged to question, to reflect and to experiment.

4. Experimentation
It sounds obvious but innovation begins with experimentation, Bill Bolton says that at some point all good ideas are “half-baked” and many seemingly good ideas will fail. One of the most important lessons we need to learn comes from science, all results bring learning, whether they fulfil our hopes expectations or whether they “fail” to do so. When an experiment proves a “failure” it means we are one step closer to “success”!

By its very nature, creation involves a departure from traditional structures and frames. In a world of creativity-sucking board meetings, past structures have ruled the roost. Now, we have to be prepared to depart from the agenda… innovation requires experimentation. Experiments are risky. We can succeed or fail. So an innovative environment must have an exceptionally high tolerance for mistakes… we have to fail faster to learn quicker and succeed sooner… traditionalists should remember that the only way not to fail is not to try. And try we must. No failures; no development. The innermost mechanism of human progress is called failure. If it were not for all the fools trying to do the impossible - over and over again - we would still be living in caves... Failure happens. Give people trust and it will happen more productively- Ridderstrale and Nordstrom

Having spent over ten years in Youth Ministry I am fully aware of the heaviness of expectation that exists in the Church, that the weight of being tasked to ‘save the Church’, to get it right can be hugely de-motivating. We are constantly on the quest for THE answer, the programme, the structure, the activity that will “work”. Success becomes competitive and we fear failure. Entrepreneurs need to be liberated to fail and to reflect in order to learn.

Failure is just part of the culture of innovation. Accept it and become stronger. - Albert Yu, senior vice president of Intel

If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever happen - Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher

Experimentation means seeing opportunities to learn and taking them even if they have a high risk of failure, we need to create an atmosphere and a culture of risk taking and experimentation, of innovation.

5. Innovation
Measured change or infinite innovation? Whether we like it or not we live in a time when change is and has been happening at an incredible rate. I once heard the famous British Astronomer tell an interviewer that he has met both Wilber Wright – one of the Wright Brothers who made the first manned flight in history and Neil Armstrong – the first man to walk on the surface of the moon. In my own life time change has been as if not more rapid, the year I was born saw Neil Armstrong’s amazing step. Recently in Houston I visited the Space Centre, where a guide informed us that the two operational Mission Control computers and the back-up computer had a combined computing power less than a modern common or garden calculator. From a personal perspective as a teenager I saw the first home computers made available, by the 'great' entrepreneur Clive Sinclair, now my 8 year old nephews have PCs in their bedroom with wireless connectivity and kids our local secondary school do their homework by accessing it from home on the school network and hand it in by saving it into a folder on the server! We live in a time of infinite innovation. Should we accept the received wisdom that change should happen in small doses, or welcome a culture where the only constant is change? The latter is the natural habitat of the entrepreneur and chaos for them is a highly creative place.

Economists have already borrowed the concept of 'adaptive zones' from evolutionary biology. Joseph Schumpeter, in particular, drew parallels with the biologists' recognition of 'adaptive zones' in his economic models. He observed that times of economic boom occur when swarms of entrepreneurs try to implement an innovation at the same time. However, those who enter this new space and pursue the new opportunities discover that their business models, formed and nurtured former practices and processes, are ill-adapted to cope with the new. Those who survive, and go on to flourish in the 'adaptive zone' are those who can also transform their structures and systems to accommodate the new opportunities. - Ann Morisy Conventional levels of and perspectives on innovation will get us nowhere. Economies of soul do not emerge from predictable, incremental innovation. To be successful in the 21st century we will have to learn how to practices infinite innovation. Infinite innovation is the never-ending pursuit of creating more and more value for all stakeholders inside and outside the organization - Ridderstrale and Nordstrom

A culture of infinite innovation also means accepting the uncomfortable reality that all is provisional, even our notions of Ecclesiology and Theology, as South African Missiologist David Bosch said “The Christian Church is always in the process of becoming; the church of the present is both the product of the past and the seed of the future… we need an experimental theology in which an ongoing dialogue is taking place between text and context, a theology which, in the nature of the case, remains provisional and hypothetical”. Doug Pagitt from Emergent and Solomons Porch Church agrees, “I am increasingly convinced that what matter in our efforts is our willingness to experiment and try – to develop expressions of faith that are fully of our day and time, recognizing that our efforts will be adapted and changed in years to come. Our role is to do our part in our day and time”. From a Business perspective Tom Peters echoes the challenge to cultural innovation “It is the foremost task and responsibility of our generation to re-imagine our enterprise and institutions, public and private”Many would argue that the culture of change that we inhabit necessitates a change in the way we, the Church think. We cannot stabilize, nor can we embrace a structure/culture of decline unless we accept the inevitability of extinction. Bill Bolton and others argue that as Business is adapting to a new ecosystem, so the Church needs to acknowledge the world we live in and to embrace the ‘dangerous journey’, not simply for reasons of survival but for reasons of Mission.

Many landmarks that have served us well are going to disappear and these changes will be difficult and painful but they threaten us only if we let them. For me this is a call to re-imagine the church in today’s world. To think in new and different ways about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and a member of his body the church. It is a call to release the entrepreneurs in our midst and for all of is the think in more entrepreneurial terms. In this process we will become more in tune with today’s culture and be able to make a far more relevant contribution to it than we do at present. – Bill Bolton

Article taken from Mark Berry's Blog: view blog entry


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