Friday, June 27, 2008

Simple, Simple, Simple?

Best-selling management researcher Jim Collins (Good to Great) proposes the “hedgehog concept”. This is popular today as a Church growth principle. A hedgehog does just one thing really well: it rolls up into a ball, and so outsmarts the slyest fox. Therefore, writes Collins, if you want to know how to succeed in an undertaking, discover your hedgehog concept (Collins J 2001:90). In Collins’ view, Einstein, Darwin, Marx -- not to speak of the “greats” in business -- “took a complex world and simplified it” (:91). So it’s all about “simple, simple, simple ideas” (:95). Yet Collins notes that a simple idea needs to be based upon “deep insight” and “deep understanding along three key dimensions”. These dimensions, it so happens, are each subtle and far-reaching -- as an example, one’s personal emotional make-up, which even Collins describes as “soft and fuzzy” (:109) -- not to speak of that “deep understanding”. In fact, did not Einstein, Darwin, and Marx -- apart from the others Collins presents -- have a wizardly understanding of their so-called “simple, simple, simple ideas”? In short, while the hedgehog concept may have some merits, Collins himself would seem to say too much that undermines it. QUESTION: Is a hedgehog concept really that “simple, simple, simple”? May it genuinely be useful?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Management Subtext

The management literature, I find, frequently seems to subvert itself. Here’s an example. Ichak Adizes wrote the classic work, Managing Corporate Lifecycles. Yet one continually stumbles across asides in this book, ever so briefly deposited, which would seem to subvert the text. Adizes states that “the tools for diagnosing and treating ... organizational behavior -- to change organizational culture and consciousness -- are in their infancy” (Adizes I 2004:10). That is, they are still in the earliest stage of immaturity. On the core subject of the “integration” of companies (getting it all together as a well-functioning whole), he states that this “remains elusive and an ongoing subject of inquiry” (:254). To be elusive means of course “to escape one”. He writes that “when I watch spiritual leaders, I am in awe” (:396). That is, the organisational guru himself would seem cowed by what spiritual leaders are able to achieve. Such comments are scattered throughout the book -- and indeed other such management books. QUESTION: What is the meaning of such qualifiers? What does this really say about the merits of management theory?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blighted Blog

Over the past year, the state of the Internet in South Africa has, in parts, considerably deteriorated. My ISP puts it down to the telephone system -- which, it states, affects “any connection (dial up or ADSL)”. This has seriously affected my ability to blog -- to the extent that I am unable to post at all from my own connection. What to do? For the time being, I shall do my best to find workarounds. However, this blog could be on the endangered list.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Doctoral Proposal

I handed in a doctoral proposal today. While I have not finally completed my M.Th. thesis, some universities prefer an early start to the doctoral process. The title of my dissertation is provisionally: Fact/Value Dualism: The Role of Language as Reconciling Factor. The difficulty can be stated simply: “How can facts lead us to values?” Fact/value dualism has been described in various terms. Chisholm (1977:60) sees it in Kant’s analytic vs. synthetic propositions; Capra (1982:21) describes it as rational vs. intuitive knowledge; Lyotard (1984:64) refers to it as denotative vs. prescriptive language games; Toulmin (1990:200,201) describes it as abstraction vs. humanism; Davey (2001:31,32) refers to it as devalorization vs. valorization; while Korten (2001:234) refers to it as materialistic monism vs. transcendental monism. This dualism is, I believe, the most important conceptual problem of our time. It has also deeply influenced recent theology. Anyway, a number of eminent thinkers have proposed a reconciliation of this dualism through a study of language, and this is the route that I propose to take in exploring the problem. QUESTION: So you have all the facts of a situation. How do you evaluate it? On what basis do you act? And why? What examples are there of people who have the facts, or data, yet do not use them appropriately?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cultural Diversity = Theological Renewal

Thomas Oden lists what would seem to be a rather generous forty-seven propositions for “theological renewal” of American Protestantism. Proposition seven states: “Christianity is a universal human community embracing all languages and all cultures, in which cultural diversity is essential to its universality. The renewing church reaches out to embrace every class, every culture, every historical and social situation, while seeking to maintain union with Christ” (Neuhaus R J ed. 1988:76). One wonders whether this is stated against the background of the alternative “homogeneous principle” first proposed by Donald McGavran of Fuller Theological Seminary (see elsewhere on this blog). Oden clearly considers that cultural diversity is essential to the renewal of the Church. Being the minister of a multi-cultural Church, I heartily agree with Oden’s proposition -- given, that is, that a Church exists in a multi-cultural environment. QUESTION: Just how does cultural diversity renew the Church? And just how does one "embrace" other cultures?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Primacy of Character

Here’s something from my M.Th. thesis (considerably abridged). Faith receives an uncommonly strong emphasis in the New Testament. This uses the term “faith”, and related terms, some 500 times. The centrality of faith is frequently self-evident, e.g. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God...” (Heb 11:6). The New Bible Dictionary observes: “In the New Testament faith is exceedingly prominent.” This includes those epistles which specifically deal with leadership. In 1 Timothy, for instance, the word “faith” has a 100% “relative density”, i.e. the highest density in Scripture. The Christian leadership authors I have studied (forty or fifty in all, and all of the Global North) typically prioritise a single leadership quality. However, not in one case do they advance faith as such a priority. In all cases, it is character, or aspects of character. Wofford (1999:107) states: “For a church leader, no attribute is more important than character”; Jinkins (2002:36) considers: “The minister’s activities are grounded, first, in the minister’s character,...”; Blackaby and Blackaby (2001:53) consider: “The first truth in leadership development is this: God’s assignments are always based on character”; De Pree (1992:10) states: “Integrity in all things precedes all else”; Clinton (1988: 75) states: “Character is foundational if a leader is to influence people for God’s purposes”; and Gibbs (2005:114) summarises the Pauline requirements for leadership as “character first and foremost”. QUESTION: So what happened to “faith”? Should it be there? Is it properly excluded as the priority for Christian leadership? And what is it?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Godly Perspective

“Either you have a big God or you will have big problems. Oftentimes, our challenges become problems because we lose perspective of the greatness of God.” (Halcomb J, Hamilton D and Malmstadt H 2000:199). Assuming this to be true, it is an important statement. QUESTION: How do we “lose perspective of the greatness of God”? How can we restore it? The photo shows the book from which the quote is taken: Courageous Leaders.

Monday, June 2, 2008


A friend at Fuller Theological Seminary sent me a professor’s paper, which forms the basis of the professor’s teaching this semester. Like me, my friend is completing a Master’s degree in the field of leadership. The material is very interesting, from the point of view that it would seem to show where Fuller “is at”, and it contains theological and conceptual content which would particularly lend itself to debate on core issues. However, it threatens legal action if any content whatsoever should be “publicly posted” without written permission. That, of course, includes this blog. QUESTION: Would it be in the interests of the Church or public for such material to be quoted without special authorisation? Are there real reasons to control the disclosure of such material? What would constitute reasonable restrictions on its use? Might a Creative Commons copyright better apply?