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Imagination & Change: 3 Big Leadership Questions

According to some neuropsychologists, part of the way our brain functions in order to not burn out is by creating neural pathways so as not to expend energy on what is routine, thereby allowing us to focus on things that need specific attention. But over time, these can become neural ruts. We all have them. And as you might imagine, the older you get, the harder it is to develop new patterns and climb out of old ruts.

Recently, scientists have experimented with replacing the blood of old mice with blood taken from younger mice. They discovered in preliminary tests that the old mice subsequently performed faster and smarter in mazes. In certain other experiments, old mice ran twice as long on treadmills than mice that were not given young blood. They have come to believe a particular protein in the blood in young mice produce more neurons, more brain cells…hence, better memory and retention in how they solved problems. Simply put, they got smarter. They literally needed young blood.

Likewise with churches; the older they are, the harder it is to change. As a result, the church grows old along with its members and eventually disappears as a one-generation church.

The danger for leaders is believing that imagination is relegated to the exclusive domain of artists and creatives, forgetting that we are all made in the image of a God to whom we are introduced in the opening pages of scripture via an explosion of creativity.

What artists often do is begin with the creative question, “What could be?” But leaders who are “imagination-challenged” will often respond with, “Yes, but artists start with a blank canvas. I have a complicated volunteer-driven church that’s x-amount-of-years-old with ‘operational traditions’ and financial responsibilities and yada yada yada. I don’t have a blank canvas!”

But what if you did?

What if you thought differently about those organizational boundaries? In reality, artists have boundaries as well. To start, the size of the canvas. And while their expression of colors seems infinite, they begin with only a few primary ones. They may also have restrictions of time, supplies and their own limited experiences from which their imagination resources. They may also be commissioned and must consider the satisfaction of their benefactor.

One way to think about the leadership “blank canvas” is to begin with the two most basic questions: What’s our business? and How are we doing? Based on that simple “status quo” probe, leaders next have to assess how their current strategies are working and be honest with what’s not. That’s followed by the obvious question: What will we do differently?

That question alone is a huge creative endeavor...and the first brush stroke on a nice blank canvas!

3 Big Questions to Ponder: How Would You Answer... 1. What’s our business? 2. How are we doing? 3. What will we do differently?



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