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The Power of Diversity and Humility in a Lean Team
The Power Of Diversity And Humility In A Lean Team

Humans tend to gravitate towards other humans like themselves. We move to neighborhoods where we share common values and economic desires with our neighbors. We worship with people who look more like us than not. 

When tasked with building teams, we ten to perpetuate the same patterns. We default to members who think like ourselves, act like ourselves, and even look like ourselves. 

Similarity is more Comfortable

Our StartNew training encourages you to start ventures with teams. Building the team is an integral part of your venture’s success. Especially when you employ the lean startup method we embrace.

The lean method originated in the early 2000s. Central to this approach is the practice of “getting out of the office” and testing your assumptions with the very customer you’re trying to serve. Interviewing and using testable prototypes allows you to prevent spending dollars — and energy — prematurely. It ultimately leads to more success in creating something that truly serves the person God calls you to.

The challenge with the lean approach comes in its “learning by doing” methodology. Such experiential practices are not always embraced by leaders, especially those with higher degrees such as MBAs.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review unpacked this finding. The research found the following to be true: When utilizing a lean startup approach, a team diverse in education and background is critical. But so is a spirit of open-mindedness on the part of those with graduate-level degrees. 

In our StartNew Assessment, we measure two traits that often seem contradictory: confidence and open-mindedness. 

You’re confident in your own opinion but open to the opinions and insights of others. You’re not weak-willed or uncertain. And you’re not closed off to new learnings and thoughts. You’re not haughty or lording over others. You’re humble enough to know that, while you think you’re right, when you allow others to speak into your strategies and actions, the result is richer and wiser.

Like Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.”

Confident + Open-minded = Humility

The HBR authors make an interesting observation. They think the MBA types are less likely to embrace the lean approach because most business school curriculum emphasizes learning by thinking. Learning is more of an internal cerebral process. The lean framework forces an experiential, outside-oneself roadmap.

Unstated but unavoidable is the reality that the more educated one is, the more stake one puts in that education. The more confident and self-sufficient one becomes.

I find this to be especially true with educated theologians. The seminary model emphasizes thinking rather than using a practical framework. Theology and dogma are even related linguistically. Dogmatic pastors exhibit some of the same characteristics as dogmatic MBAs.

This easily transfers over to a “mature Christians” vs. “immature Christians” or even “non-Christians” comparison. Our Western mindset quickly elevates educated over uneducated (whatever that means).

I recently met with some church leaders to help them more effectively mobilize their congregation to start new ventures that bless their community. Critical to our strategy is to involve the congregation early and often, especially in soliciting insight and opinions.

The pushback I received from the leadership surprised me. At its source was a “We know better than them. I don’t trust they’ll tell us anything that useful.” mindset. When I pointed out this could have been said by the Pharisees commenting their disapproval of Jesus going to parties with sinners, the leaders failed to see the connection.

I tried a different tack. “If you tell me you think the congregation should go in a certain direction, and that you want me to be involved in and contribute to the congregation, but you don’t want my thoughts about the congregation, the message I receive is that I’m not as important or wanted as you are. I feel like I don’t belong. I feel like more of a commodity than a living soul.”

 One of the leaders nodded his head.

My point? Our training in building, funding, and launching ventures that help people requires you to spend time with those individuals. 

Seek their thoughts. 

Understand their life learnings. 

That’s what makes the lean approach so effective. It’s why we’ve been so successful in helping Christians from all walks of life turn their ideas into viable realities.

The Harvard researchers’ best lean team combination? A team that is diverse in backgrounds and education and humble in listening and learning — not only from one another—  but from the very customer it’s seeking to serve.

When you build a team, recruit a variety of different experiences and skillsets. And check the egos at the door. Avoid thoughts and behaviors that lead to we/they in any form.

(To read the HBR article for yourself, go here.)