What Is Your Best Innovation of 2014?

Len WilsonCreativity, Leadership, Strategic ThinkingLeave a Comment


2014 is toast. Stop for a moment and look back over the past year. What is the best new innovation you’ve been a part of? In your work, home, church or in your personal life?

Hopefully you can think of one. Write it down. If you have multiple ones, or categories, great! Write those down, too.

I love creativity, and I talk a lot about it in this blog, and it gets lots of buzz. Creativity is an essential part of life, just as it is, without ambitions to monetize. (In fact, the need to monetize creativity in our personal life kills creativity.)

But sometimes, especially in our organizations, we need more than just a good idea. We need an idea that delivers new ways of thinking and acting. Creativity only counts in organizations when it leads to something that ships.

This is how I define innovation:

Innovation is creativity that ships.

By that I mean that innovation is creativity that does something specific. It delivers a real solution to a problem. It meets a need.

When creativity impacts people, it becomes innovation.

How can you innovate in your work, home and church in 2015?


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonWhat Is Your Best Innovation of 2014?

How I Narrowed My Focus for 2015

Len WilsonCreativityLeave a Comment

sunrise in focus

Everything I read about best practices for making things – for blogs, books, videos, anything you’d publish or market – talks about the need to narrow your focus. Of course, it makes sense in my head; my marketing and business experience has taught me that any successful idea needs to solve specific problems posed by specific audiences.

But while it may be easy to apply to see the main thing for other peoples’ ideas, it has been particularly difficult to nail down a tighter focus on this blog. I tend to be all over the map with my thoughts and, if you were to ask me what my main thing is, I’d have a hard time naming less than 5 topics.

So I decided to run an experiment…


What I Tweet About Most

1. Using this feature, I downloaded every tweet I’d ever posted, which as of this writing is over 3600 since 2008.

2. I went through every one of them. (Yes, that took a while.) I deleted the replies, duplicates, strays and junk. My test was whether I’d want to post it again. And maybe I will – I had a fun time rediscovering some gems.

3. I applied categories to every viable tweet. The following 13 categories emerged as clear favorites. I tried a few others as I went but when I ended up with so few for these stray categories, I went back and re-allocated them.


My Topical Breakdown

After this process, I landed on 620 good tweets. Here’s a breakdown of tweets, related to:

Think Like a Five Year Old (my book on creativity):  135

Innovation (applied creativity in churches and organizations): 101

The creative process: 97

Story (mostly tips and applications): 57

Writing (usually tips and techniques, some quotes): 55

Art (usually advocacy for it): 52

Personal faith formation: 37

Finding and pursuing your calling / passion: 34

Leading creatives / artists: 28

On the need for honesty: 22

Worship practices and church life: 12

How to do a good presentation: 8

New technology: 5


My New and Improved Focus

There’s a pretty clear winner here – the variations of creativity. This may seem like a no brainer if you read this blog, but what is interesting is how infrequently I posted about topics I’ve previously promoted on this blog, such as marketing, worship and technology.

This process has taught me that I need to tighten my blog focus around personal and organizational creativity: our need for it, how to engage a creative process, and how to make innovative things happen in churches and organizations.

So this is my blog focus for 2015 and beyond.


If you tweet a lot, I recommend trying this for discovering a tighter focus.


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonHow I Narrowed My Focus for 2015

If The Horse is Dead, Dismount

Len WilsonChurch, Creativity, Leadership, Technology1 Comment

As a preacher’s kid, I spent countless hours roaming the halls of my father’s church buildings, looking for something to do. I was around church, but I never really connected with it. The language and symbols of the church confused me.

As I got older, my confusion gave way to frustration and then embarrassment over the inability of the church to communicate. I came to follow Christ, but many of my best experiences of the Word and of Christian community happened not within the usual worship and gathering rituals in the church, but outside of the church, such as with a small group of brothers in a Bible study on my college campus. It seemed to me that the church has the best story, but it is rarely told.

Deeply bothered, I decided to devote my life to helping the church be more creative and more effective in its ability to tell the story – through its technology, language, images and symbols, and so on.

In my 20s, some friends and I experimented with telling the gospel story visually, using new digital technology. That experience, at Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, helped launch the era of screens in worship as well as my first two books, The Wired Church and Digital Storytellers. But it was never just about technology in worship for me.

In my 30s, I taught churches how to design and implement more creative worship, using metaphor, image, team dynamics, and so on. My work with Jason Moore through our company Midnight Oil Productions led to several more books and helped thousands of churches produce more creative experiences of God in worship. But it was never just about creative worship design for me.

Now, in my 40s, I am back in the local church, leading all of creativity and communications in one congreation’s life. I oversee digital, visual and print technology, worship’s visual components, and all church wide marketing and advertising. And while branding is large part of what I do, it’s not just about church marketing for me.

There’s a common foundation under each of these ventures – a need to find connection, or meaning. A need to overcome esoteric and off-putting language, symbols and experiences that prevent people from experiencing the life changing power of Christ. And it doesn’t matter if worship consists of guitar-led choruses instead of organ-led hymns, or offer seats and coffee instead of pews. People can be confused in any sort of setting.

I think a lot of our problem has to do with the fact that we lack new creative ideas and innovations.

There’s an old Texas saying that goes, “If the horse is dead, dismount.”

All organizations tend to ride dead horses, and need innovators to do the hard work of raising up new horses. I want to help the church innovate. However – and this is the problem –  the church, I believe, is worse when it comes to riding dead horses. In addition to the natural human bias against new things, we make it worse because we ordain our old ideas holy. They’re just ideas for a time and space, but we make them sacred and unassailable, or at least allow this to happen without question.

All of those confusing phrases and images I heard as a kid were simply creative ideas from a previous era that we the church rode until they died.

What the church needs is to set about the business of making new ideas. New horses. And not just once more – but in perpetuity.

We need to create an environment where people are free to create, try new ideas out, and discover what resonates with people, both outside of and inside the walls.

What we need in the church is a culture of creativity and innovation.


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonIf The Horse is Dead, Dismount