Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Review: Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret by Larry Osborne


I am raising and educating my children, and that often requires a certain level of innovation:  if something’s not working, I’ve got to change it.  Learning to innovate, to think outside the box, is an important skill for homeschooling moms.

However, there is one fact about innovation that the success gurus never mention:  most innovation leads to failure.  Larry Osborn, a very innovative church leader, knows this and has written Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret:  Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail to explain how to increase your chances for successful innovation.

To innovate successfully, Larry writes, one needs

  • a special kind of insight that thinks ahead,
  • a unique form of courage that calculates risks and then takes them despite peer pressure, and
  • an extraordinary flexibility that’s devoted to the truth, not the dream.

Of course, if something’s not broken, don’t fix it.  We should save our efforts for things that are broken most and that frustrate us the most.

And when we do need to fix something, we should try a low-key experiment to see how the new idea will work rather than announce sweeping changes with huge fanfare.  We should remain flexible but not be swayed by naysayers, remembering that many people feel threatened by change.

Companies, churches, and even families are often swayed by a dangerous lie:  healthy things always grow and multiply.  This is not true, as even nature shows.  On the other hand, we can inhibit growth by poor leadership, poor organizational rules, or not keeping up with cultural shifts.  Larry goes through each of these areas and discusses solutions.

Furthermore, all organizations should have a vision (an understanding of what the success of the mission statement looks like) and leaders need to verify it, communicate it, build a team around it, and protect it.  But remember, a vision often starts out fuzzy and is clarified as time goes on and decisions are made.

To lead wisely, leaders need to ask themselves the same questions over and over:

  1. What is our unique mission?
  2. What are our unique strengths and weaknesses?
  3. What is current reality?
  4. What do we need to do to better fulfill our mission?

I’m sure you can see how directly this applies to a homeschooling mom raising and educating her children.

However, in raising children I still prefer to go with proven attitudes of the past, the things my grandparents and parents and in-laws did, for they were all successful in raising children who loved the Lord and their fellow man.  But there’s a large grey area in implementing those attitudes because the world has changed so much.  We need to blend the old and the new, and that’s innovation.   It requires wisdom, and is doomed to fail without prayer.

In homeschooling, too, we’re combining some of the great learning of the past with the technology of today, and parents who are still learning the material are applying it all to different children with different talents.  That certainly requires a creative mindset, but homeschooling allows ample opportunities for tweaking as we go along…as long as we remember that we can tweak things, that we can innovate.

So, obviously there is much helpful information in this book. On the other hand, it also occasionally displays an arrogant, manipulative, vision-over-people attitude that may be suitable in business but should not be part of a church or a family.  A pastor is meant to be a shepherd and should never write of a member of his flock, ‘the old codger….I’d been praying that Jesus would move him out.’  (p 67) And his attitude should not be that as long as they don’t leave, who cares.  That is like the strong sheep of Ezekiel 34 who thrust out the weak…or even like the shepherds who devour the sheep.

For business, non-profits, and even church and family life, Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret has many helpful ideas about people and change.  However, even though the author is a pastor, I cannot recommend his attitude for churches and families.  Vision and innovation do not trump love and obedience to God’s call.

To read more reviews, visit Cross Focused Reviews.

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews and Encourage One Another Wednesday.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews for the purposes of this review.  I have expressed my own opinion and am not compensated in any way.

One Comment

  1. Jenn says:

    Interesting book!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *