Growing up in the late ’80s and the ’90s when personal computers started coming into the mainstream, MICROSOFT was the bomb! They did everything well and they were everywhere. Computer makers like Apple were struggling and no one even thought of Google yet. In fact, I can clearly remember back when I was hired to be the Jr. High Intern at my 1st church that my boss and I mocked the other intern for her love of Macs. We made fun of her so much (in a nice way of course ) that she eventually switched to PC — an Acer no less.
Well times have changed and now my former boss and good friend laugh at ourselves for how we tortured the other Intern because we, like so many of the rest of the world have switched from PC to Mac. In less than 10 years, Apple, Inc has gone from on the brink of extinction to the most popular computer and home entertainment distributors in the world. It was done in large part because of the creation of the iPod in 2001. From there a halo effect the iPod created, Macs have grown in popularity, the iPhone is one of the best selling cell phones in the world and the iPad is crushing the tablet market. Apple, Inc is on a roll!
In fact, if you look at Microsoft, it is struggling to compete in the mobile phone market, they don’t have a table computer that is exciting to consumers and their Windows OS is outdated. So, what happened to Microsoft? How did it go from greatness to an afterthought? Well, according to Fortune’s article “The problem with Microsoft” and Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Paul Allen’s Revenge” there are a number of reasons for this:
- Can’t let go of the glory days. In the Businessweek article, Paul Allen suggests that, “Microsoft continues to overvalue its market share of yesterday’s products rather than develop compelling new ones.” He went on to say that Microsoft was addicted to the Office Suite and continued to bask in the that product which prevented it from developing in other areas such as internet.
- Poor execution. In the Fortune article, it shows that Microsoft has been great at spotting trends and getting out ahead of the market on ideas. They started talking about tablet computers 15 years ago and developing an e-Reader 10 years ago — long before anyone else. The problem? Poor execution. Roy Ozzie, who was once the chief software architect for Microsoft after Bill Gates said, “Our early and clear vision notwithstanding, execution [by competitors] has surpassed our own.” They can’t get compelling devices out on the market anymore.
- Not letting innovators innovate. In an effort to compete with the ever changing mobile phone market, Microsoft bought a mobile technology company, Danger (the developer of the popular Sidekick). What Microsoft told those employees was, “You’ve got this great product, and we’re going to give you the resources to take this to the next level.” The developers at Danger were excited and pumped for having the additional resources to innovate. HOWEVER, what ended up happening was that those developers ended up getting folded into the Microsoft company and instead of being able to innovate and create, many were assigned to help develop a new Windows-based phone. After months of frustration and delays, the team had to rush to create a new phone based partially on a new operating system. Although the idea for the phone was great, the lack of support, the rush to get done and their inability to create and innovate destroyed any chances of this new phone from succeeding. It was pulled from the stores after only 48 days on the market!
So how does Microsoft’s struggles possibly apply to ministry? Simply put…
- Let the glory days be glory days
- Never stop innovating and creating with excellence
- Take Risks for the glory of the Lord
Microsoft couldn’t let go of the past and they had to keep on putting more and more money into Microsoft Office. Sure it was a great productivity tool, but no one this day and age is a one trick pony. You have to keep innovating and creating. Take Apple for example. They weren’t satisfied with just the iMac or iBook. In 2003 they released the iPod which changed the music industry (Imagine that! A computer company changing the music industry). They could have stopped there but they didn’t. They went on the change the phone and tablet industries by releasing the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. They kept on creating and making things better for more people.
In the same way, as leaders of Christ to others, we need to constantly be looking for ways to share about Him to people. That means sometimes we need to be changing and adapting the way we do that. Whether it is introducing a new program, a new way to share the gospel or a new way to challenge the volunteer leaders, we need to be constantly creating and changing with the times. What works today will definitely not work in the years ahead. Things have to change as students are changing.
Students, like consumers, are not as loyal as the “good old days”. They are going to go where there needs are being met and where the excitement is. In order to be presenting Christ to as many people as possible, we have to be constantly changing methods (not core principles) and take some risks.
That is why it is so important to keep thinking of new ideas. Don’t get fixated on the prior success of an old program or an old way to share the gospel. Keep on adding, tweaking and changing things. When those new ideas get stall, invite some new fresh blood into the creative meetings. This is a great way to include students into the process and give them ownership. Not only does it encourage them but it is another way to include others and new ideas can begin to develop.
So right now, TAKE A MINUTE and think through how you can keep ahead of the game. Take a look at your program and see where changes may need to take place. What is old and outdated that need to be replaced with something fresh and new? Don’t wait til attendance is down and it is clear things need to change. Get out ahead of the game and make changes as needed so that students have every opportunity to hear about Christ in the best way possible.
Tom Pounder blogs very often at www.ministryblackboard.com and has been featured in several guest posts when Josh is on vacation or is just plain lazy.