Innovation: Asking the Right Question

A few months ago a did a random post about innovation. I have been thinking about it ever since.

The thing I keep going back to is how we don’t innovate because we ask the wrong question. We ask “How” instead of “Why”. How maybe an easier question to ask and answer by asking why makes all the difference.

Here are a couple of examples of “how” being the wrong question.

1. You go to a conference and ask the person next to you “How do you do your children’s worship service” instead of asking “Why do you what you do with your kids on Sunday morning.

2. “How do I get more volunteers” instead of “Why do I not have enough volunteers”

I think you get the picture. We are all guilty of asking How rather than Why. We like asking “How” because it is easy, safe and requires little of us in the short term. “Why” on the other hand gets to the bottom of things. It cuts to the motive. Why do we do what we do is a much different question than How do we do what we do. When you ask why it changes how you process the information you are about to hear. You begin to think of application in the context of your environment, not just doing some program that seems to be working for some church down the road.

The question “Why” is based more in values and vision and “How” is based more in roles and function.

You may be reading this right now asking yourself “Why did I read this” and I would ask you “How did you get this far if you feel that way?”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Innovation: Asking the Right Question

  1. Sam, way to hit the nail on the head. The "Why" should be foundational to figuring out the "How." Ministry purpose and the deeper questions of philosophy should drive our decisions. When you speak of innovation, you can't neglect the aspect of change. We've been doing so many things the same way for so long, that innovation in thinking brings functional changes in ministry. I've developed a worksheet that helps ministry leaders think through the "Why's" and get to the "How's" of ministry change. You can find it here: http://freecmstuff.com/2010/02/leadership-nugget-
    Hope that will help some of your readers!

  2. Great article Sam! It does pose me with a bit of a conundrum though. I keep thinking, "How can I implement this in my own life?" Then I realize the question is, "Why should I implement this in my own life?' 🙂

    Seriously though, very insightful. I think that we should constantly be asking ourselves the why questions. If we tackle the How without addressing the Why, there is really no foundation for what we are doing. Furthermore, I think it's critical that we teach our kids to ask the why questions as well. It teaches them how to think through issues and questions rather than just give rote answers.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Wayne for the question – I to am a lover of all things practical. I do agree this is a bit philosophical. As far as getting practical I would say
      1. Take time to ask yourself "Why" you do what you do in your ministry.
      2. When going to a conference breakouts don't think how can I do this in our kids church. Ask why do we do people do this and why should I add this to our kids ministry
      3. If you are facing a problem before asking How should we fix it ask Why does this problem exist.

      Thanks for the comment. Also thanks for back links to my blog from your blog patrol.

  3. Some good reflective thinking. I think that often we jump into the HOW (doing something; changing something; imitating something) without ever considering the WHY. Sometimes the things we're doing have very little Why behind them. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.