Off the Shelf…On Books: Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

[* Off the Shelf …On Books will be a regular feature of Exchange and will include short commentary on books that may or may not be faith-based but that offer sound insight into advancing the Kingdom, full-on book reviews (please limit to 750 words), and teasers about books coming soon to a bookstore near you…or Amazon as the case may be. Please feel free to submit pieces for inclusion in this section, especially those books which have had a profound effect on your thinking or methodologies in practice.  The point is to draw attention to books that are not necessarily in the limelight but are worthy of consideration. – Dave]

By Keith Sawyer

(New York: Basic Books, 2007.)

This book should be a standard in the library of every aspirant to leading change, especially those leading change for the cause of Christ. Sawyer’s thesis rests entirely on the premises that two heads are better than one, sixty four heads are better than two, and different heads contribute different perspectives and lead to more creative solutions. To tackle these in reverse order, the importance of each premise to the missional work of the Church should become fairly clear.

Different Heads

If you want nothing more than a simple engineering solution to a problem, gather a group of engineers and tackle the problem. If you want a market-oriented solution to an engineering problem, which will also appeal to the general public to promote sales and still come in under costs, gather a group of engineers, product designers, marketing and advertising specialists, and accountants. The solution to that ugly, dysfunctional toaster lever will emerge and serve a multitude of purposes. Amalgamating a broad diversity of thought promotes high levels of creative resolution.

For Example…

I work with a broad range of constituents in the interaction of the Christian Gospel and marketplace mechanisms and ministries. The players include business practitioners, missionaries, academics, prayer warriors, donors, pastors, and a range of other subgroup categorizations we might relate to the topic. Unfortunately, when a conversational group was convening, and I suggested that we draw together a diverse group from all these constituencies, I was rebutted because the group only wanted to include those from their own profession: academia. Well, okay, but all the input will be academic, the ivory tower doors will remain locked to everyone else, and everything inside will likely become unappealing and sterile to most outsiders. Theories are great and necessary but scientists still need engineers to create working products and accountants to keep the lights on.

A variety of inputs from a variety of perspectives allows what Thomas Friedman referred to as interdisciplinary, globalized thinking, an invaluable tool in an increasingly complex and integrating world. I believe Sawyer’s book is a thought provoking, must-read for any interested in most effectively moving the Church and the Kingdom forward in the coming decades.

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