One of the most important things entrepreneurs, innovators and church leaders can do is to foster their sense of creative confidence. We are, at our core, incredibly creative people, and sometimes that side of us needs a little coaxing to come out of hiding. Why? There are several reasons. Most of our adult lives are spent trying to fit into existing molds, patterns and ways of life, and in the midst of blending in we lose our distinctive creativity along the way. We also distinguish among people who seem to exhibit more creativity as the “creatives” and those who seem less innovative and original as the “non-creatives.” These categories subtly teach us that some people are more creative than others.
However, that is simply not true. We all have creativity and the ability to innovate – but some of us have quieted it more than others. As leaders, businesspeople and church participants, we are all invited to practice our unique creative traits in the places we live and work. Ministry Incubators fully believes in the power of the Christian community to work their creative minds and hatch incredible social enterprises that expand the framework of how we practice ministry.
But how do we get creatively unstuck? How do you reawaken your creative confidence, or attempt to narrow in on an idea or passion project to incubate into a new business venture? The invitation to “be more creative” may seem a bit daunting, but there are plenty of small ways to exercise your creative muscles. Over time, these habits help us become regular creators, and help us shape the future of impact entrepreneurship from a theological point of view.
One of my favorite creative agencies is the team at the Stanford d. School – working to put together the concepts and ideas of human-centered design into the everyday products and services we use. Bill Burnett and Dave Evans recently released a book called Designing Your Life, formed out of a popular class they taught to undergraduate students on selecting careers and vocations. The book is a great resource to individuals and contains several helpful exercises for those looking to reinvent their ideation and creative processes. For those interested in the work of Ministry Incubators and the world of social entrepreneurship, this book teaches some very practical design tools to kick-start the process.
A great exercise to try this week as you imagine your own jump into a social enterprise or ministry context is the practice of mind mapping. The concept is not original to this book and dates back a few decades to a British psychologist, but the exercise is popularized for a reason. The technique is useful in generating ideas and forming previously unrecognized connections, getting you to push aside the judgment filter and let the ideas flow wild and free.
The process is simple, and involves only a few steps (adapted from pages 71-74 of Designing Your Life):
1. Pick a topic
2. Make the mind map
3. Make secondary connections and create concepts
1. Pick a topic. Start with an idea, experience, or concept that intrigues you. Put that in the center of your mind map and mark it off in a box.
2. Make the mind map. From this original idea, you write down six things related to that idea in branches all around it. The key is to write down whatever comes to your mind first – don’t overanalyze the process. Repeat this process for several rings of word associations.
3. Make secondary connections and create concepts. After about five minutes of un-censored ideation, scan the words and highlight the ones that stand out to you – or mash a few together to create a new concept. Start at the outermost rings of the map and mix up the ideas.
That’s it! No one can promise the ideation will be perfection or exactly what you will choose to pursue as your idea for social innovation. It will however, begin the process of actively practicing creativity, knowing that you are fully capable of forming an idea and hatching it into an enterprise.
Part of being actively creative is allowing ourselves to get unstuck, to dream up big ideas, mash up concepts, and explore the unknown. This is how innovation is born – in your own life, career, and maybe even your church community. Practice your creative confidence this week and share it with a friend!
Ministry Incubators exists to help cultivate ideas and turn them into innovative ministry practices. Join us in our work and contact us to see how we might best support you in developing your ideas and ventures. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay updated with the most current Ministry Incubators events and projects!