Connecting The Dots
My last piece on entrepreneur church leaders reminded me of a dinner I had one night with a number of Wal-Mart executives in Rogers, Arkansas. I was seated next to a man whose responsibilities were doing site selections for new stores - especially Sam's Clubs. Being naturally curious, I asked him what process he used to select sites. I wanted to know how he started with the broadest general survey of the whole country (those stores were relatively new then) and narrowed the options down to a particular site in a local community. Needless to say, it was a science he had perfected. Of course, it was not just him but he had a whole set of peers at K-Mart, Target, Kohls, Best Buy who had been doing this for years. That was all they did. They analyzed information for placing stores where they would be most valuable and generate the highest revenue. He told me about weather patterns, traffic flow, demographics, residential and commercial building, infrastructure, city government, population growth projections and overall economic forecasts. In one man I had found an encyclopedia of information about where to put a "big box".
After a couple of hours of his sharing his storehouse of process and wisdom about site selection I asked him a simple question. "Have you ever considered sharing how you do what you do with church planters? I know you cannot share the information about actual sites but could you share the process you use for winnowing down the options and placing a store with reasonable certainty it will be profitable?" His face went blank so I re-phrased the question. Nothing. I waited thinking maybe he was trying to compose an adequate answer given everything he knew.
"Why would anyone in the ministry want to hear from me? I'm not even ordained. I don't know about churches. I cannot imagine there being any value for them in what I do." Now I went blank and silent. Was he kidding? I knew several hundred church planters who would sit with him for however long it took to learn the process for figuring out where to plant a church in a community. I pushed back at him but it was useless. He could not connect the dots and I'm sure now that I didn't know how to get him there. I might today but not then.
Dinner was over and we both left frustrated. He was confused about how I could see any application for his priceless skills and I was frustrated that this kind of resource was getting away!
I learned something that night. It's not enough to see the talent in people. You have to help them see it as well...and they don't. Figure out how to help them connect the dots between what they do and a different application. It takes patience and creativity and knowing how to get inside their world, their language and their own self-imposed limitations but it is worth the effort. I still think about that guy walking away with all that!