How To Simplify Any Problem

Catching a cloud

It was the early 1970’s. 8-tracks, pet rocks, and waterbeds were all the rage. The Jackson 5, Led Zeppelin, and Bread were playing on the radio. And Irish Spring from Colgate-Palmolive, with its green stripe of freshness, was top of the soap charts. Meanwhile, the marketers at Procter and Gamble were working hard trying to create a copycat product with it’s own green stripe of freshness.

Irish Spring

After several failed attempts, creative manager Min Basadur suggested that his team at Procter and Gamble weren’t asking the right questions. Instead of asking, “How can we make a better green stripe bar than Irish Spring?” he asked the question, “How might we create a more refreshing soap of our own?”

 

This led the team to explore other themes of freshness including that which comes at the seacoast. From this came the coastal blue and white striped soap named “Coast.”

coast

Min Basadur went on to become a consultant who has taught the concept of How Might We to companies over the past four decades. The question is key in what has become known as Design thinking, which is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions.

Here are some steps we can use to help us better understand the question of How Might We?

Step 1: Define the area you want to explore, whether it is a current problem or an anticipated problem.

Example: This meeting is going to be boring.

Step 2: Reword the statement into a “How Might We?” question.

 

  • How suggests that we do not yet have the answer. It helps us explore a variety of possibilities instead of acting on what we suppose the solution should be. It pulls us out of inactivity and helps us begin thinking.
  • Might emphasizes that our responses are only possible solutions, not the only solution. It also allows for exploration of multiple possible solutions instead of merely settling on the first that comes to mind. It allows for any idea to be brought to the table, no matter how outlandish.
  • We immediately brings in the element of a collaborative effort. It suggests that the solution lies within our collective teamwork instead of within one person’s influence and creativity. 

 

Example: This meeting is going to be boring…How might we make this meeting interesting?

Using How Might We questions helps us take a negative statement and turn it into a positive question which helps us find a solution. 

Step 3: Use brainstorming techniques to come up with as many solutions that you and your team can imagine to your How Might We question.

Examples:

  • We might make the meeting more interesting by involving the attendees in discussion?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by utilizing visuals in the presentations?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by limiting the length to one hour?

Step 4: Prioritize the best ideas, build on them, and work them into next steps, sometimes involving their own How Might We questions.

Example: How might we actively involve the attendees in our meeting in interesting and lively discussion?

How Might We? is a question which can help simplify and bring clarity to almost any problem. Granted, it might simply bring more questions to the table, but most often, those questions are relevant questions.

So, next time you encounter what seems to be an unsolvable problem, try developing it into several How Might We questions. If you do, you’ll suddenly be thinking from a positive viewpoint, pointing yourself towards solutions instead of dwelling on the negative problem.

* For further study on How Might We, including the full story of Coast, see The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use article by Warren Berger from Harvard Business Review.

 

Why I Choose To Be Thin-Skinned

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King David was a king, a warrior, and a man after God’s own heart.  He was also an artist, a musician and a writer. Who else but a sensitive person with an artistic heart could have written so many heart felt psalms? Who else but a talented artist could have played so skillfully that demons fled from Saul as he listened? The church needs artists today. We need people who cry when listening to beautiful pieces of music. We need people who stop running so frantically and see the beauty, hurt, and awe around us. We need people who pay more attention to God’s creation than business plans. We need people who feel deeply and have the ability to communicate those feelings to the rest of us.

Rory Noland, in The Heart of the Artist, writes that “Everyone with an artistic temperament has been told at some point in his or her life to develop a thicker skin. That’s nonsense! The world doesn’t need more thick-skinned people. It needs more people who are sensitive and tender.” I agree with Rory’s sentiment for the most part. I suggest that artists, in the church, need to be thin-skinned people when experiencing beauty and hearing from God but then be willing to put on spiritual full-body armor when experiencing evaluation, criticism, and spiritual warfare.

I am a firm believer that God determines what He wants someone to do by who He made them to be. I also believe that everyday, as we grow closer to Him, experience life’s victories and defeats, learn new skills, and tolerate pain and resistance, that we are in a constant state of becoming.  So, the two questions are, “Who did God create you to be?” and “How has God being creating you recently?” 

Did He create you to be an artist of some kind?  Then keep reading.

The world pushes artists of all kinds down from the time they are young.  Think about it.  Adults ignore or laugh at children’s artwork when presented to them, kids taking artistic lessons are often downplayed by those in sports leagues, Jr. High students are merciless in their teasing of classmates trying to express themselves in any creative way, high school and college standards weed out those who simply want to create art for enjoyment, and then adulthood comes along and presents us with the immediate priorities of financial obligations, thank you very much. I know, I know. Life happens and people have to grow up and find real jobs in order to stay alive. That’s true, but what fun is life if there isn’t some kind of beauty we can experience along the way? What good is the money we make if we are numb to art and beauty?

I want to encourage artists, especially those in the church, to not be afraid of your own sensitivity. Feel what’s going on around you. Experience it. Live it. Make it a part of you.  Then communicate it to the world around you in beautiful, unique ways. Write, sing, sculpt, paint, draw, play, act, compose, speak, direct, form, whatever…

Just don’t stop. 

If you do, it’s not just you who loses. 

It’s all of us.  

 

Don’t You Dare Stop

creativity

What’s the first thing we learn about God?

When we read the first five words of the Bible, we don’t learn that God is loving or forgiving or convicting or beautiful, even though He is all those things. Instead, we read:  In the beginning, God created…

He created the heavens and the earth. He made the plants and the sky and deepest of oceans. He made the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. And then, He made us in His image, a true work of art.

If we’re made in God’s image, then we are creative.

Most of us believed this when we were children. We created joyfully. But then something happened.

Someone laughed at our creations. We saw the creative work of others and thought we could never rise to their level. People started praising the creative efforts of younger people and forgot about us. Our friends gave up on their creative pursuits and pressured us to join them. We experienced loss and decided to set it aside for a few days. Then, of course, we were distracted by bills, tv, family, work, social media, traffic…  and suddenly, we quit trying to be creative. It became easier to just exist.

 

 

Then, years later, we look back at our creative desires and chuckle, wondering why we ever pursued creativity in the first place. However, somewhere, deep inside of ourselves, we don’t laugh. We ache and long for yesteryear, because we realize we’ve lost a vital part of who God made us to be.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can be creative again. It may be different from our earlier creative pursuits, but it’s time to take our first steps. It’s time to create something. It doesn’t matter if the creation is music, clay, words, paint, furniture, string, or bacon, it’s time for us to get out there and create.

 

Then, after we start, we can’t stop. We have to keep trying, keep improving, keep living, and keep creating. We can’t dare stop.

It’s who God made us to be.

 

As Easter Approaches Night of Worship

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Every year, as Easter approaches, churches spend lots of time making programmatic and physical preparations, lining up extra volunteers and updating old systems. However, I’ve found that it’s often good to breathe for a moment,  take a look at everything, and then prepare ourselves spiritually. The outline below shows how we did that in 2017. Check it out.

Night of Worship and Prayer As Easter Approaches

Opening Musical Worship

 

(Transition To Main Content)

As Easter Approaches, We Need To Celebrate Jesus

  • Read Luke 19:28-40Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?”

And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

    • Expound on scripture (Suggestions below)
      • It was the week before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In a sense, Jesus was preparing for Easter.

 

  • “If they kept quiet, the very stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
  • Why do we need to celebrate Jesus?

 

    • Lead the people in cheering for Jesus, so the stones don’t have to cry out.

 

  • Upbeat Prayer celebrating Jesus
  • Song celebrating Jesus – Suggestion “Shout It Out” by Vertical Church or “Great Are You, Lord!”

 

As Easter Approaches, We Need To Cry Out For Our Communities

Read Luke 19:41-44 – But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”

  • Expound on scripture (Suggestions below)
    • Jesus wanted the people to understand the way to peace. Wouldn’t He pray the same thing today about our communities?
    • If God doesn’t intervene in our cities, destruction surely awaits us.
    • Earlier in Luke, when speaking to Jerusalem, Jesus says How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Luke 13:34b)
    • As Jesus cried over Jerusalem, we should also cry over the condition of our cities…
  • Lead the people to gather in groups to pray for the city. After several minutes, pray a pastoral prayer to gather them back. Pray that those we are crying out for to attend one of our Easter services. Pray for our people to be inviters of those they see in need.
  • Song crying out to God for our communities – Suggested Song – “Here As In Heaven” or “Fall Afresh”

As Easter Approaches, We Need To Consecrate Ourselves

Read Luke 19:45-48 Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.

  • Expound on scripture (Suggestions below)
    • Jesus, a few days before his death and resurrection, cleansed the temple. We’re not planning on beating anyone here, but it is time for us to cleanse our personal temples as we make preparations for Easter…
    • Verse 48 says that all the people hung on every word that Jesus said. As we prepare for Easter, we need to hang onto the Word of God and onto the words of Jesus.
    • What sin have you been holding onto that you need to confess to the Lord? Confess it to the Lord right now and turn away from it.
  • Lead the people in praying for themselves, giving them time to confess sins and get right with God.
  • Song about the Lord transforming us – Breathe On Us or My Heart Is Yours (Passion)

Closing

  • Easter is almost here, and we have a lot to do in our preparations for it. Many here still need to volunteer in one way or another and we want you to do that, but right now, let’s remember why we’re celebrating Easter. It’s because Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died a cruel death on a cross to pay the price for our sin, yet even more than that, He rose victoriously from the dead, defeating death, hell and the grave… It’s time for us to cheer for Him once again…
  • Lead the people in cheering for Jesus once again, celebrating His resurrection.
  • Closing Upbeat song about the resurrection. Suggested Song – “Resurrecting” 

How 2 Rite Good (Or at least better)

Sign - Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Jack Kerouac once said, It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.

There’s some truth to that statement, no matter if you’re writing a thesis or a thank you note. Here are a few tips to help us all improve our writing:

  1. Lead with your main idea – Let people know your subject upfront. If you don’t, they’ll stop reading.
  2. Good writing is concise. It can certainly be creative, but it should be free of superfluous adjectives and unnecessary details. More is not always better. Sometimes it’s just more. Most often it’s less.
  3. Avoid using the word that as often as possible. Even though that is sometimes useful when adding description, the sentence can most often become more powerful by moving the description to before the noun.
  4. Condense what you’ve written, then condense it again, then do it a third time. This will help your writing be tighter and more interesting.
  5. Use a thesaurus to help you find the perfect word. Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
  6. Overused clichés are as common as dirt. Good writers avoid them like the plague. You get my drift?
  7. Read more and your writing will naturally improve.
  8. Use Spell Check. It’s free and instantly available. Duh.
  9. Write when your emotions are elevated about your cause. You can always go back and edit later. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, Write while the heat is in you… The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.

New Lyrics For “Away In A Manger”

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A few years ago, I wrote the lyrics for two additional verses for the Christmas Carol “Away In A Manger.” Please feel free to use them if you so desire.

No Longer A Baby, He Grew To A Man, Sent To Us From Heaven To Fulfill God’s Plan,                         He Died On A Cross To Atone For Our Sin, Then Rose From The Dead To Be Alive Again…

This Precious Lord Jesus Is All That We Need, If We Make Him Our Savior And Our Lord Indeed,           O Please, Wondrous Jesus, Be With Us Today, Fill Us With Your Spirit, We Now Humbly Pray…

Merry Christmas.

 

I Ain’t No Professional Ain’t Cuttin’ It No More

I saw a sign in a restaurant the other day proclaiming “The Only Thing Worse Than Our Food Is Our Service.” Unfortunately, I’d already ordered the pancakes.

reverse-marketing-tic-toc-diner

By the way, the sign was right.

“I ain’t no professional” is a phrase I’ve heard once too often in my life in various capacities. I think it’s safe to say that if “You ain’t no professional then there ain’t no need to say it. Everyone already knows.”

The difference between the amateur and the professional is simple. The professional is willing to roll up his sleeves and go to work.

photo-courtesy of Unsplash - Matthew Wiebe

The word professional is defined by Google dictionary as someone engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” This means the person is serious about it and is willing to work hard.

My profession for most of my life has been ministry. In some of my positions, I haven’t always acted professionally for various reasons. I sometimes I didn’t know what to do or who to trust and I often let my insecurities keep me from doing the work that needed to be done. In those moments, I was allowing myself to become an amateur.

The author of Proverbs 22:29 once wrote: “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”

Some people want to reference the above verse and say that we shouldn’t associate with certain people. Believe it or not, they may be right, but not in matters of race, socio-economic status, or sports team affiliation. However, we should be careful with associating with those who are going to wastefully absorb our time and keep us from the professionalism we should strive to achieve.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:

“Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

It’s time to quit whining. It’s time to do the work that’s set before us. It’s time to be professional.

Dustin Lee - Unsplash 1

The Biggest Problem With Creativity

At a recent conference, I learned about the biggest problem with creativity. Here it is:

People want creativity to be like this

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People most often want creativity to be linear – straight from the need to the end result. Archimedes said that the shortest distance between two objects is a straight line. That seems to make sense, right? If that is so, creativity should work like that too, correct? We should have the ability to be creative on demand with our best ideas, right?

It may work that way for some, but most often not.

Creativity is really more like this

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The best creativity comes from a crockpot instead of a microwave. The best creativity involves starting with an idea, allowing your to marinate (ponder) what you have, making adjustments along the way, and finally coming to a finished product.

The secret is giving yourself time to ponder, edit, soak, and revise.