Silicon Valley is a region in Northern California that is the hub of some of the world’s most successful technology companies, start-ups, and several major technology-focused institutions. Silicon Valley is the hall of fame of over 2,000 technology companies and hosts big whigs such as Facebook, Google, and Apple just to name a few.
This area is known for being the proponent of many major technological innovations that have radically advanced the way our culture operates. But Silicon Valley is not just a lovely spot in San Francisco; Silicon Valley is a mindset.
The brilliant minds who work for the companies in this region have completely changed the ways we look at technology, innovation, workplace culture, and work in general. There is no place like Silicon Valley that has been able to successfully replicate the high levels of successful companies here have seen. However, there are so many things we can glean from the story behind their success.
In our ever-evolving world, the willingness to stray from the traditional ways of doing things is more important than ever. For churches specifically, we have seen the absolute necessity of reevaluating the ways we do things to reach people more effectively. As the waters shift, we must be willing to keep up with the changing tides.
As always, the message of Jesus never changes, but the methods we use to share the Kingdom of God on earth may have to shift every so often.
Just as Silicon Valley has conformed to the needs of our culture, we must also embrace our world’s needs and innovate accordingly.
We want to give you 6 simple key characteristics Silicon Valley has that we can glean wisdom from to be highly effective in our churches.
1. Innovation, innovation, innovation!
We often hear this word tossed around but don’t always get the full picture of what it looks like. To innovate means to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” Innovation is simply recognizing the need for change and striving to make those changes.
Innovation usually comes when we realize that the old way of doing things isn’t as effective as it once was. This point right here is the key phase that we often neglect to get to. Most people would agree that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but many cling so tightly to “the way things always have been” that they are completely blind to the brokenness. (That’ll preach!)
Innovation is the antithesis of tradition. Innovation invites in the new and advances on the old. This does mean throwing out all previous ways of doing things. It means to improve on old things and be willing to throw things out if necessary.
This is the defining characteristic of most companies in Silicon Valley. They are in the business of improving, expanding, and evolving to keep up with needs and pressures to move forward into the future.
For churches, innovation is also a vital ingredient to success. We must never find ourselves content in how things are and reject any advancement into the future. When we do this, we will surely fall behind and miss the opportunity to reach people in a new and fresh way.
2. Meeting the consumers' needs is key
One of the main reasons we do innovate is to meet the needs of our society and the people within it. Research has shown that over half of the companies in Silicon Valley follow a customer-needs-focused model. This means that an organization simply orients its processes and services around what matters most to its consumers. In a nutshell, it means putting customers’ needs first.
While this type of model requires far more work (and investment) than the “fast-follower” model, the return on investment is quite high. When you put consumers’ at the forefront of all you do, you begin to build more than just customers; you build a genuine, organic following.
When customers’ needs are met with excellence and care, they will come back for more. Your care will put you at “top of mind” more than your cool specs ever could by themselves.
You may think, “duh, we’re a church, of course, our community’s needs come first!”
But unfortunately, many churches will look to what’s popular and trending before they look to their congregation’s real-life needs and desires. This is a hard truth to take in, but it's worth considering. Is it your community’s needs or is it your lofty expectations that propel you?
3. Creating an atmosphere where you want to work.
Let’s take a second to shift our focus from what our church does weekly to the church’s inner workings as an organization.
Do you genuinely enjoy working at church? (You don’t have to tell us your answer, but think about it for yourself).
Research is all over the place when it comes to workplace satisfaction, but what we know for sure is that there are several contributing factors to satisfaction in our jobs. These factors include compensation, growth opportunities, autonomy, meaning, and workplace environment.
Many people drag through their 40-hour workweek and live their entire lives for the weekend (cue the classic Loverboy ballad). Some live their entire professional lives tolerating their job and only stay there for stability, security, and health benefits.
Someone once said, “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.” A similar saying reigns true here “love your work environment with and you never will despite the weekly grind.”
The atmosphere of your workspace is not just about the physical surroundings, but the overall feel of the work environment. The quality of relationships, attitudes of those in leadership, and overarching morale all play a part in facilitating a work atmosphere.
If people can never see eye-to-eye, leadership is dismissive and bossy, and morale is low, your work atmosphere will seem more groggy than not. But if relationships and open and encouraging, leadership are excitable and nurturing, and morale is high and exciting, the workplace will be a bright and exhilarating place to be.
People won’t bring their best forward if they are constantly devalued, neglected, or not included in the vision of the organization. Silicon Valley is known for its incredibly vibrant work environments that encourage discussion and advancement. Our churches can learn from them when it comes to creating a great place to work.
Church work shouldn’t be a mind-numbing, unfulfilling job. It should be a place where you can truly thrive in your gifting alongside people who have a common mission.
4. Keep an equal balance between dreaming and strategizing
While meetings are vital for logistics to be sorted out, plans to be made, and strategies to be, well, strategized, too many meetings can dampen the vision.
Patrick Lencioni’s book Death By Meeting talks about one of the most underestimated problems in modern business: bad meetings. He discusses a framework in which leaders can begin TO eliminate waste and frustration among their teams and create environments of engagement and passion.
This book also discusses pitfalls of meetings, like:
- being too long
- too tedious
- too unproductive
- sometimes seemingly useless
However, when meetings are well-organized and purposeful, they can become shorter and way less frequent.
Companies from Silicon Valley seem to understand the value of not having meetings for the sake of meetings. Part of innovation is having the necessary time to dream, cast vision, and think forward. If your entire day is clogged with logistical meetings after logistical meetings, it can hinder the creative juices from flowing.
We cannot neglect strategy, but we must give ourselves ample time to dream about what is next, how we can improve, and what new ideas we can bring to the table.
5. Collaborate with a network of like-minded people
One of the surprising characteristics of Silicon Valley that has set them up for success is their emphasis on collaboration with others in the industry. One of the greatest lessons we can learn from entrepreneurs especially is the power of building connections and networking within your particular field of expertise. Building these relationships overshadow the previous notions of competition and instead integrates collaboration among industry leaders.
Community over competition should be our end goal, especially in the church.
There is a great value in sharing the vision with other companies that have the same values and mission as you do. Ultimately, all churches have the mission to share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. When we remember that this is the goal for all of us, it makes collaboration that much easier.
Practical ways to collaborate with other organizations that aren’t exactly churches are seeking out non-profit organizations or charities that share a similar mission as you.
Teaming up with these organizations has a two-fold benefit:
1. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you can allow the organization to do what they do best
2. You can share the burden of the mission through finances, volunteerism, and creative insight.
Building a network of non-profit organizations, other churches, and key leaders can also help to expand your reach and make your mission even more impactful. While it may seem counterintuitive to choose to collaborate instead of competing, it has proven to bring more success than just riding things out solo. We need community and healthy networks to truly thrive.
6.We must embrace change.
While this may seem to be just a repetition of the first point on innovation, it must be noted that embracing change is key if we want to see success and healthy growth in our churches.
Silicon Valley companies are in a constant cycle of change. As more and more technological advances are discovered every day, there is a great need for the companies to respond accordingly.
We face the same problem in churches; things change in our culture every single day. Things shift in ways we often aren’t prepared for and we can either choose to shrink back or embrace change.
Many people feared major technological advancements in times past. However, the necessity of advancement far outweighs the fears of people, because change is necessary.
Truly, staying stagnant is just not a concept that is in Silicon Valley’s mentality. These companies can be likened much more to a rushing stream than a stale, still pond. Our churches should be the same way if we want to change the world for the better.
The beauty of this all? While Silicon Valley, through its highly successful efforts, has changed the way we use technology, the church is impacting souls.
Our impact is not just temporal and only lasts for a time, our impact can radically dismantle the gates of hell and populate the eternal Kingdom of God!