Game Plans or Blueprints: Moving from Frustration to Implementation with Innovation

Larry Osborne is the senior pastor of North Coast Church in northern San Diego. Widely respected for their innovation among the church world, North Coast was one of the first ministries to implement pioneering concepts like alternative worship services, multi-service and multisite locations, the introduction of video venues, church wide community projects, the famous sermon based and lay led small group strategy, and team leadership at the executive level. While many of these ministry methods are common now, they were at the time of implementation at North Coast, revolutionary.

In his new book Innovations Dirty Little Secret: Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail”, Larry Osborne brings his adventurous heart and sage advice to benefit not only the Christian market, but also both public and private organizations as well. His book has a variety of endorsements from business and church leaders alike, that include quite a diverse list of influential names. Because innovation is one of the forefront tasks of any leader, “Innovations Dirty Little Secret” will provide leaders; both novice and veteran, with the inspiration and affirmation needed to introduce change, develop new products and programs, and leave a legacy within an organization that reinvents itself continuously. Like the title to this blog post suggest, flexibility such as that held by a coach running a game plan, is of higher value in terms of innovation as opposed to the rigidity of an engineer’s blueprint. Therefore, leaders of serial and sustaining innovation tend to operate more like a fluid artist than a constrained scientist.

Innovation, as Osborne defines it, is twofold. It  “(1) must work in the real world, and (2) be widely adopted within a particular organization, industry or in the marketplace” (p. 41). With this understanding in mind, it is obvious to any moderately alert church attender, that Osborne’s innovations at North Coast were light years ahead of their general acceptance in ministry circles.

So what is “innovations dirty little secret”? It is simple. Plainly stated, most innovations fail. Throughout the rest of the book, Osborne goes on to explain why and how leaders can learn from their innovative failures in order to assure success in subsequent attempts.

“Innovations Dirty Little Secret” is comprised of seven parts, each with a number of chapters highlighting the same theme. Some of my favorite sections include chapter 11- “The High Price of Failure” and it’s explanation of the three types of leadership felonies (the spotlight cures, the curse of hype, and the curse of leadership ADHD), chapter 15 – “When You’ve Hit the Wall: Breaking Through Barriers of Competency and Complexity”, and Part 6-Whey Vision Matters. Osborne, who is a master at offering sound bites that contain both breadth and brevity, quips his memorable, managerial anecdotes throughout the book, with phrases like: “serial inventors don’t take crazy and wild risks” (p. 30), “leaders, win awards for solving problems” (p. 44), and “the only thing you and your leadership team can know for sure about the future is that it will be different from what you think it will be” (p. 83).

Each chapter either ends with a list of reflective questions to dig deeper in the content covered, or yields a concluding summary of the main points listed. In addition, Osborne uses illustrations from a variety of inventors including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Jeff Bezos, and Howard Schultz.

Therein lays the strength of this book. Osborne is not a mere theoretician, but a practitioner with over thirty year’s experiences. By weaving his story, and that of North Coast’s, with other examples throughout history, Osborne shows how regardless of industry, innovation requires certain elements to succeed. In the same vein, there are a number of practices that will actually sabotage organizational change and innovation rather than accelerate it. For this reason, Osborne’s book is a must read for those looking to take their organization to the next level with imagination and innovation.


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