11.29.2007

Real Self-Preservation

It is the nature of any bureaucracy to sustain itself. It takes a
truly humble individual or organization to say, "We had our time of
relevance, but we've overstayed that time, and it's time for us to
fold." Who wants to lose their job, their budget, their turf?

I don't fault the sentiment. Heck, for ten years I worked for a small
non-profit and we chalked up our survival mentality as all positive:
staying hungry, doing what it took, scratching and clawing. Of
course, this all can become self-serving, insular, and out of touch
with a changing world, to the detriment of the organization, its
members, and the constituencies it serves.

Ironically, the best way to avoid dying is to regularly kill yourself.
Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative
destruction," whereby innovation replaced dying industries and
processes with fresh new ones. Andy Grove of Intel spoke early and
often of "paranoia" - even at the top, constantly looking over one's
shoulder lest complacency set in. (Toyota is inculcating this
philosophy worldwide right now.) The best CEOs surround themselves
with "no" men, people who will tell them they're full of it when
they're, well, full of themselves.

It's not quite the same concept, but Jesus did say that the only way
to gain life is to lose it. What he meant was less to die to the old
to give the new room to flourish, and more to die to the self to give
the Lord room to flourish. Still, if you're a Christian, you should
have a category for dying to self, rather than clinging to what's now,
desperately trying like a self-preserving bureacracy to maintain.

In that sense, it would seem we Christians ought to be the freest
people around to pursue innovation and progress and change. In our
lives, in our service, in our ministries, for the world's sake, would
that be the case. That's the real self-preservation.

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