Organizations (and leaders) must have a certain amount of change and challenge in order to be fully alive with new questions and decisions that force us to engage with God and his Kingdom more fully and deeply. Growth only comes from change.
In his seminal book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Hungarian author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gives a fascinating account of a native North American tribe in British Columbia. He writes:
“The Shushwap region was and is considered by the Indian people to be a rich place: rich in salmon and game, rich in below-ground food resources such as tubers and roots—a plentiful land. In this region, the people would live in permanent village sites and exploit the environs for needed resources. They had elaborate technologies for very effectively using the resources of the environment, and perceived their lives as being good and rich. Yet, the elders said, at times the world became too predictable and the challenge began to go out of life. Without challenge, life had no meaning. “So the elders, in their wisdom, would decide that the entire village should move…every 25 to 30 years. The entire population would move to a different part of the Shushwap land and there, they found challenge. There were new streams to figure out, new game trails to learn, new areas where the balsamroot would be plentiful. Now life would regain its meaning and be worth living. Everyone would feel rejuvenated and healthy.”
We are stimulated in life when there is a balance between anxiety and boredom, between low challenge and high challenge. The optimal state is what Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow, a focused immersion in a task or activity that leaves one energized and in the zone. Likewise with organizations: if left unattended or merely maintained, atrophy sets in resulting in apathy and complacency.
Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Model lays out the emotional outcome where challenge levels meet skill levels on low to high continuums. If a leader doesn’t provide some heat or direction to the organization, mission drift occurs, and if left for too long a time, corporate deterioration sets in and in some cases is nearly irreversible—all that the future holds is a slow death.
Question of the Day: When was the last Big Change or Risk-Taking Challenge you led your church toward...and through?
And that's more than changing the color of the carpeting in the foyer…
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHANGES
*Excerpted from Elemental Leaders: Four Essentials Every Leader Needs...And Every Church Must Have