Discerning Mission

Lessons from Apple?

apple logo with steve jobs image in it

I'm fascinated by this reflection in the Harvard Business Review blog. James Allworth dares to suggest that the pursuit of profit alone is not the key to innovation, and that Apple demonstrated this very clearly and beautifully:

When describing his period of exile from Apple — when John Sculley took over — Steve Jobs described one fundamental root cause of Apple's problems. That was to let profitability outweigh passion: 'My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It's a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.'

Anyone familiar with Professor Christensen's work will quickly recognize the same causal mechanism at the heart of the Innovator's Dilemma: the pursuit of profit. The best professional managers — doing all the right things and following all the best advice — lead their companies all the way to the top of their markets in that pursuit... only to fall straight off the edge of a cliff after getting there.

I think it bears repeating Jobs' words: "My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products." Think about that. The first two phrases -- "to build an enduring company" and "where people are motivated" -- don't even mention the product. I think that's a fascinating innovation in and of itself for a corporate enterprise.

One of the challenges for congregations is that we rarely if ever agree on what the passion is that we're pursuing. The root cause of that word -- passion -- ought to draw us back to the life and death and life of Jesus the Christ. But how often do our congregations actually figure out a way to talk about passion?

This weekend I had the privilege of worshipping with the community of First Lutheran in St. Paul, and their pastor talked about how instead of having a mission statement, they have a mission question -- "does love grow here?" I think having a question, instead of a statement is a fascinating direction to go in for a community of faith, and I am eager to watch how that specific shift functions in the life of this community, and where it might take them as they uncover their own unique responses.

Comments (1)

previous main next