Monday, September 09, 2013

pioneers in contexts organisational and cultural

There are three key contributors to entrepreneurial success. They are personality, the culture of the country they live in and the support available to them. (From here)

Worth pondering. It suggests that pioneering talk needs to occur in context – to consider the culture and the organisation.

Regarding personality, the article notes that there is no such thing as an “entrepreneurial personality.” Indeed, there are great variances in psychological makeup of entrepreneurs. This is good news and certainly important given the common stereotypes that hang around the word leader and innovator.

However, pioneers do tend to have some shared characteristics

  • an enjoyment of achievement
  • take personal responsibility
  • exist with higher levels of tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty
  • look for risks
  • see failure as an opportunity for learning

Regarding culture, this is really interesting. I find it intriguing the rise in recent literature in business circles around social entrepreneurship and the rise of the word pioneer in church circles. Our Western culture prizes novelty and so the word pioneer finds coherence. However, down-under cultures add complexity to the word pioneer. In New Zealand, we quickly stomp on tall poppies. In Australia, pioneers died in the desert. They also tended to be male, playing into an outdoor, rather than domestic spirituality. (I’ve written more about this here). So downunder, these layers make pioneering a more complex cultural image to play with.

Regarding support, well for those of us in the Uniting Church who talk about innovation, have a read of this

My vocation carries a cost with it, a cost I am – to a certain extent – willing to pay. But paying that price may cost me more than I can afford … I am left wondering, then, what choices I now have available to me. Can I learn new ways to live within my limited resources that are life-giving and sustainable? Must I choose an occupation that takes me away from a calling that has this year been so profoundly affirmed, in order to extend my financial resources and remove the strain? Are there avenues for support I have not yet explored?

And will my community, the church, be brave and explore these questions with me? For the reality I face, of a limited income and / or multiple occupations, will face more and more ordained and lay ministers called to serve a church with fewer and fewer full time placements available. (From here)

Sarah refuses to accept that creativity and innovation are individual. Rightly (IMHO) and especially for a Uniting church that claims to be inter-connectional, she asks about the place of the organisation in supporting and sustaining innovation.

I sat with someone recently who noted that their church was looking for a 2nd minster who could pioneer something new that in time will pay for their salary. I quietly pointed out that I long for day when that the sustainability of salary applied to the first minister as equally as the incoming pioneering minister.

In sum, only part of pioneering is about the pioneer. They always need to be seen in context – both their cultural and organisational

Posted by steve at 11:26 AM


  1. This line too, from your source article, is interesting: “They (entrepreneurs) will usually not get involved in businesses where there is very little chance of growth and success”.

    It obviously does not mean they won’t take on hard challenges, but it does point to a pragmatic and strategic ability to evaluate the possible ‘ends’. Sober and realistic analysis amidst the aspirational and pioneering drive.

    Comment by Tim — September 9, 2013 @ 11:41 am

  2. I guess that is part of the calculated risk.

    Which assumes Tim, that you and I have both done pretty good due diligence on the organisations we are part of 🙂


    Comment by steve — September 9, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  3. Thanks Steve.

    All along this journey as a ‘pioneer’ I have stumbled across questions we (the church) have not asked, or not for a very long time, and therefore don’t know how to pose the questions, let alone reflect and respond.
    It needs mutual vulnerability, openness and honesty to embrace this conversation – but mutual, most importantly, for we are human and we are the body of Christ together, not alone.

    Comment by sarah — September 9, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  4. Sarah, if change is embodied, “for we are human”, then it is totally consistent that the pioneer will embody questions for the organisation. It allows structures to form around mission, to be mission first, which invites change.

    My favourite quote on this is Graham Ward, and I’ve read the ordering as important

    “There is then a twofold work for those projects involved in developing transformative practices of hope: the work of generating new imaginary significations and the work of forming institutions that mark such significations.” (Ward, Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice, 2005, 146.


    Comment by steve — September 9, 2013 @ 11:59 am

  5. I think in NZ we struggle to embrace breaking into new ground partly becuase we have no appreciation of where we have come from. You can do bible college courses on Church History and have New Zealand not mentioned once!

    Comment by Aaron — September 9, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

  6. Thats’ really helpful Aaron.

    We’ve changed our Church history courses here at UC. We call it Mission Then, Mission Now and try to look at church history through a mission lens, in order to reflect on mission now; and through a global history lens, rather than a Western history lens.

    So great to have your comment here as affirmation of that move


    Comment by steve — September 9, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  7. Sounds like an interesting change Steve. I think we need to appreciate mission history from a global perspective but we also need to hear about the things that have happened in years past in our land. Much of the NZ church is ignorant of our story and to me that is a tragedy.

    Jesus needed someone to prepare the way for Him (well actually he needed a multitude of people to prepare the way for Him but John was the culmination of that). Interesting that when he honored (was baptized) by the one who prepared the way for Him, this lead to Him being released into pioneering ministry and mission.

    Comment by Aaron — September 10, 2013 @ 9:24 am

  8. While at Laidlaw, I used to teach a course called Being Kiwi, Being Christian. Telling the story of how Gospel spread among Maori, showing Maori Jesus, telling Parihaka story – were huge learning moments in the classes


    Comment by steve — September 10, 2013 @ 10:23 am

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