We talk about how innovation undergirds all of our initiatives here at FCS. We stay innovative by doggedly pursuing a mission greater than the needs of our organization: the flourishing of South Atlanta. From experience, we know that by choosing a mission greater than an organization your work will gain certain attributes. Here are three traits that emerge when you’re pursuing a mission greater than your organization.
#1 Self-Perpetuation Will Fade as a Goal
When the mission is bigger than the organization, self-perpetuation is never the goal. We try never to assume that the growth or replication of any product or project is a good thing. The mission is yardstick against which we measure initiatives; it’s always the bottom line. And we will forfeit anything that was previously successful if the mission demands it. Just like the mission supersedes the organization, the needs of the neighborhood trump the needs of the organization.
#2 The Table Will Be More Inclusive
When the mission is the bottom line, it also means that the mission is more important than any one leader. When the mission surpasses any one person, more people feel ownership and come to take part. Eventually, this means a great mission creates a more inclusive table. Once that table is set, we’ve had to listen to these voices. We’ve learned to value the ability to see outside the assumptions of key authority structures. Innovation thrives on variety and diversity of thought. We believe that we can’t do this work without proximity. We live where we work. We submit to the leadership of the community. We fear tables where only one voice is heard.
#3 Reflection and Readjustment Becomes the Norm
Diversity of voices in a vibrant mission inherently lead to constant reflection and healthy critique. Iron sharpens iron, albeit with a few sparks! We don’t just critique cultural status quo, we critique our own habits, methods, structures. We keep pushing to the next, better solution. Innovation is often launched as a judgment and critique of the failings of the existing models. We want to apply the same rigor to ourselves. When someone offers a critique of what we are doing, our leadership doesn’t figure out how to defend ourselves. We sit and listen to see if it reveals something we need to know about ourselves.
As you might imagine, the realities laid out above can be hard! Having a mission bigger than the organization supplies the courage and the motivation to keep going. Having that vision of flourishing, of collaborating to weave a beautiful fabric, helps us embrace the change that has to happen within us, not only around us.