The Why Behind the What of Innovation


Why do you want to innovate? Your why behind your what is a crucial catalyst. Don’t leave this piece of your personal innovational strategy squishy. You’ve got to ruthlessly ambush ambiguity here. Why? As Aristotle said, “Generalities are a refuge for a weak mind.“ Nothing is dynamic unless it’s specific.

So let’s get specific. Now. Set your phone’s timer for 2 minutes and jot down as many reasons behind your drive to innovate as you can think of. Feel free to post them below! Simply rapid-fire a long-list of the many things that are motivating you to create newness to add value to your target. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overanalyze. Don’t worry about word-smithing. Just answer the core question: Why am I doing what I’m doing? Second, once you’ve got a long-list that feels appropriately exhaustive, prioritize it. Which ones are the no-brainer front-runners—the primary pushers of your desire to innovate?

Our team went through this essential exercise not long ago. Here’s what we came up with:

WHY do we want to cultivate a culture of innovation at WCL?

  1. Being made in and reflecting God’s image means ever-innovating out of a loving motivation.
  2. Living in an ever-shifting culture & trying to reach an ever-shifting target means constantly adjusting, tweaking, and trying new things that could bring even more value to our target for Christ’s sake.
  3. Achieving our mission to help people far from God become fully devoted followers of JCdemands innovation.
  4. Making innovation an instinctive leadership behavior ensures our deepest development and highest impact as individual leaders and a church that seeks to lead/influence other churches.
  5. We long to architect a culture that enables the church to continue to be an unstoppable
    movement for good in our world.
  6. To right-size the urgency we need to feel—enough to get us regularly experimenting but not so much that the pressure becomes burdensome.
  7. To provide and prove catalytic permission to try, fail, learn, and try again until we succeed.
  8. NOW is the best time to best leverage all our best strengths to ensure our best impact.
  9. We want to have a blast while we’re striving to make the world a better place.

I cannot urge you more sincerely—be ridiculously relentless about discerning the innovational why behind your innovational what. Your crystal clarity on your why will serve as bedrock to anchor you, fuel to drive you, and wind to move you as you travel through the universe of innovation.

Finally, perhaps we can all agree: we are makers and movers, not watchers and waiters. And the world around us is desperate for her leaders to generate real-time solutions to the very real tensions of humanity. That trust is a stewardship that we must manage well. And we haven’t a moment to lose.

Since every great why needs a great how, we’ll free-dive deep into process in upcoming posts.

But, before we do, please tell me: WHY do you want to innovate?


  1. Walt B

    Thought-provoking article. I agree that the why is a central question to ask before you invest yourself. My working definition of innovation is creativity with a purpose, to meet a need, solve a problem, or improve a process. In a business context, that could mean finding a new way to achieve a predefined strategic objective.
    As your post leans toward innovation in leadership and organizational (church) culture, I recommend a thought-provoking book about innovation in the spiritual and physical realms called Secrets To Imitating God: How To Redesign Your World, by Bill Johnson. It’s a fascinating look at how a person can co-labor with the Lord to bring the innovation and wisdom of Heaven into everyday real-world problem-solving at any scale, thereby bringing glory to the Source of all innovation.

  2. Marcus Bieschke

    Walt, thanks for affirming the power of the WHY. When I was a kid, my older brother used to mess with me by asking “why?” after every statement I was making in explaining some story. It took me 6 or 7 layers of his “why-ing” to realize he was playing with me. But his point applies today! ;)

    I like your working definition of innovation as well–especially that you call it a “working” definition, implying it is fluid and can be sharpened with deeper experience.

    Also super intrigued by the concept of innovation in a Christian ministry context or what I might call “Kingdom Innovation.” We’ll be getting into an actual of Theology of Innovation in the coming months together in NeoSparks. Thanks for weighing in!


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