In September 1962, on grainy, black-and-white tube televisions allacross the United States, John F. Kennedy threw down a challenge,ending his speech to forty thousand people at Rice Stadium inHouston, Texas on a surprising and awe-inspiring note:We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things,not because they are easy, but because they are hard.As twenty-first-century readers, it’s hard for us to grasp just howoutrageous these words would have sounded to their original listeners.But make no mistake, this was earth-shattering, and Kennedy’s speechcoined the word “Moonshot”—an undertaking of something soambitious, so out of the realm of possibility, that it seems halfway crazy.In many ways, the Moonshot gives us the key to overcoming theCurse of Knowledge: something so audacious, so unlikely, it breaksus out of the cage of our creative thinking.
The Moonshot defeats the Curse of Knowledge. How? By slayingthe foundational belief that you can do it.
Why is this important? Because it breaks the glass ceiling that’sbeen holding back our capacity for ideation, our ability to see beyondour own experience and expertise. The point is our current capacityand skills can’t accomplish the Moonshot. So we’re going to have tothink, see, and respond differently.
This is essential for kingdom innovation, because this very spiritualprocess only becomes possible when we start to remove our pride andself-belief from the equation. You can’t make kingdom innovationhappen. No, really. You can’t. I don’t care how clever or competentyou believe yourself to be. Only Jesus can make it happen. In John 15,Jesus says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Moonshot thinkingputs a hypothetical goal out there that’s so big, so outlandish, thatwe know there is no way it happens without the work of the HolySpirit. The whole process has to be saturated with his presence andsubmitted to his will. It takes us into the deep waters where we can’ttouch the bottom, and we can’t see land.
And really? There’s no better place to be. It’s why Paul says,But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is madeperfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly aboutmy weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why,for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, inpersecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.When you realize you can’t do it, when you see that you aren’tenough, it changes the questions you ask. It changes the people youinvolve in the process. It opens up the possibilities, tears down thewalls built by the Curse of Knowledge, and leads to different theoriesof how to get to the Moon.
Moonshot thinking is foundational to ideation, the second phaseof kingdom innovation. It forces us to come up with new practices,concepts, and ways of thinking that go beyond what we already bringto the table.
Notice I’m not using the word “brainstorm” at this point,because brainstorming doesn’t mean what most people think itmeans. Ideation is about walking through a very specific process, inwhich we uncover and discover new ideas that can get us from CapeCanaveral to the Moon. Today, whenever leaders feel stuck withtheir team, they pile drive into a conference room, find a whiteboardand say, “Alright! Let’s brainstorm! We’re not leaving the room untilwe figure this thing out.” Ideation, however, helps us come up withnew ideas and practices we want to test out and experiment, but withthe assumption that what I bring in my head isn’t enough. We needpeople with different experiences and different ways of thinking whoaren’t all suffering from the Curse of Knowledge.
There is an art and science to effective ideation because it is agenuinely creative process … the whiteboard brainstorm really isn’twhat it looks like. But the good news is that you can learn. And ifyou’re going to defeat the Curse of Knowledge (thus slaying the greatVillain of our story), then you must.
We could be forgiven for assuming that creative problem-solvingmeans absolute blue-sky thinking, with no hindrances, fences, orobstacles to hold your mind back. “That whiteboard is blank andanything could go on it!” But in reality, that’s rarely helpful. Oneparticularly useful concept in helping us learn the skills required forideation is the concept of constraint.
Though we may not always perceive it as such, constraint is a giftbecause it forces us to focus and see things in new ways. Often, as welead the specific things God has called us to, we lament the areas ofconstraint forced upon us:
- We don’t have the right team.
- People aren’t committed enough.
- We don’t have enough money.
- Our facilities aren’t right.
- The neighborhood has changed around us.
- We can’t keep our best leaders.
All these reasons might prevent us reaching the Moonshot, andallow the Curse of Knowledge to win the day. But we can use thoserestraints to force us to think differently.
Wasn’t the 2020 pandemic one big proof point of how constraintcan actually drive innovation? If you could only leave your house forbasic essentials and nothing else, how would you do church? Lead anon-profit? Run a business? The constraint itself wasn’t chosen, butplaced upon all of us. And what happened as a result? Innovation.We can also choose to use hypothetical constraints to aid us in theIdeation Phase, helping us to focus and see new ways of thinking.As Adam Morgan and Mark Barden write in their book A BeautifulConstraint, constraints can be “fertile, enabling, desirable … catalyticforces that stimulate exciting new approaches and possibilities.”Take your local church, for instance: If it was illegal for Christiansto own or rent property, how would your church still live out theGreat Commission? If your staff budget was cut in half, how wouldyou grow your church by 100 percent in attendance? If, within tenyears, all the leaders of the church had to be twenty-eight years old oryounger, what would you do? If people didn’t have access to a writtenor audio form of the Bible, how would you disciple people towardspiritual maturity? If you had to successfully plant a church everyyear or shut down, how would you ensure an annual church plant?If national borders didn’t exist, what would you do with refugeepeople groups? If the church could only happen online, how wouldyou reach people far from God? If you had to ask 90 percent of yourchurch congregation to leave, who would you choose, why, and whatwould you build with the remaining 10 percent? For those leadingin the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these hypothetical constraintscame close to being their reality.
Just imagine how many innovative ideas those conversationswould foster in your leadership team. Learning the skill of ideation,knowing how to generate new ideas that might work, is key in thissecond phase of kingdom innovation. And pressing into hypotheticalconstraint is an enormously helpful place to start.Why can’t God use you, right where you are, for such a time as this?
Excerpted from Ready or Not: Kingdom Innovation for a Brave New World by Doug Paul. Copyright 2020 by Doug Paul.