Is Business As Mission Disruptive Innovation?

by Larry Sharp

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.1

BAM takes into consideration, the human condition of poverty and pain (both spiritual and physical) with the creation of a profitable business which creates jobs, which in turn creates wealth (a Biblical value stated in Deut. 8:18). It links that with the goal of making followers of Jesus and with the importance of wise use of human and natural resources. In summary, Business as Mission (BAM) at its core has a Quadruple Bottom Line: 1) Profit and Sustainability, 2) Job Creation, 3) Followers of Jesus, 4) Stewardship of Resources.

So how might this be innovative and how might it be disruptive?

First look at some well-known disruptive innovators. Jeff Bezos did not just improve book sales when he started Amazon. He disrupted everything – speedy book deliveries, then other products to become the world’s largest online shopping retailer. His latest disruptive talk: drones and space warehouses. His mantra, “if you are going to invent, you are going to disrupt.”

Looking back a few decades, some of us can remember the advent of the transistor radio. People first thought of them as Japanese junk, with poor quality, but they were portable and teenagers could take them to the beach easily. Gradually the sound improved and the product totally disrupted and made redundant the old cabinet radios.

I remember when a visitor showed up at our school in Brazil in the early 1970s with a portable calculator. Our bookkeeper was using a manual adding machine which did the job but was big, clumsy and noisy. I took the leap of faith and asked to purchase this calculator from the visitor before he left the country. I paid $180.00 for what today can be bought in Wal-Mart for $5.99. Portable calculators were disruptive because they did not just improve on existing technology, they disrupted it by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility and eventually affordability.

Perhaps one of the biggest examples of disruptive innovation is the development of the personal computer, when the big main frames ruled the day in the 1960s-70s. Even the chairman of IBM, Thomas Watson is famously quoted: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” But the personal computer formed a niche market that appeared unattractive and inconsequential at first but eventually the new product completely redefined the computing industry.

Mobile phones – the same story. The idea is that the historic technology and industry concentrates on improving their product while the innovative disruptors focus on the bottom end of the market tapping into new customers with new and different needs. They create new demand and find overlooked customers. Think Blockbuster and Netflix.

Back to the question: Is Business as Mission disruptive innovation? BAM spokesperson Mats Tunehag likens Kingdom Business today to a 21st century reformation. The Protestant Reformation was disruptive in that it focused Jesus followers on simpler easier forms of faith – reading their own scriptures, the priesthood of individual believers and faith over works as the way of salvation, among other things.

So perhaps BAM is disruptive in the following ways:

Business is returned to its rightful place as the only institution which creates wealth in society; it is not government, nor education, nor health care and not the church. All of these, as good and important as they are, consume wealth. Business creates it. And it is ordained by God.2

Business is the modern means ordained by God to address the issue of poverty. It creates wealth through job creation and gives dignity, honor and empowerment to individuals, families and communities. Jesus gave the Great Commandment requiring believers to love God and love their neighbor. Today loving our neighbor is creating a job for him/her and this becomes the modern equivalent of feeding the five thousand, or healing the leper. BAM is what Jesus would do today.3

Business and faith are easily integrated. Business leaders are together with people many hours each week so the principles of faith can be lived out in the marketplace of life. In most cultures, people learn by observing and doing and when it comes to knowing Jesus, one learns by observing a Jesus follower living and acting like Jesus in every life. Dale Losch in his book A Better Way, talks about living and loving like Jesus.

Whereas most of the 20th century became accustomed to outsourcing missional work to the professional clergy, Business as Mission is a reformation. It is the work of all believers in the workplace, not just the clergy, or those paid to be missional with their faith.

BAM is innovative in that it is cost effective. It does not require an endless infusion of charity monies which often become toxic by creating dependency and destabilization. It addresses issues of declining mission funding, and “America first” perspective.

Today Business as Mission and related means such as Tentmaking4 are disrupting the market. They have the potential (as the little guy at the bottom of the market) to replace the multi trillion dollar aid industry, and make the traditional mission professional mission groups redundant in much of the world.

Business as Mission is making the product (Quadruple Bottom Line) simple, accessible, convenient and affordable. It is not just improving on what has been done in the past; it is disrupting things in modern times by returning to an old order of “faith without works is dead”, creating wealth and promoting dignified sustainability. In one sense it is an ancient idea; but because it has been largely lost, it may be considered innovative, and certainly disruptive.

 

1   – See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/?gclid=CMTS6OL_8dECFQaVfgodUtoILw#sthash.CKUPSk41.dpu/

2 Deut.8:18 “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

3 https://www.youtube.com/user/povertycure

4 Tentmaking is mission done in accordance with the model of the apostle Paul. He was a tentmaker by profession, and made a living through his work when he was on his mission journeys (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor 9). Today the ‘tentmaking’ label is used to describe everyone who seeks to serve God in other cultures through his or her profession. It includes business people, professionals, and students bringing the “Good News” onwards to new places. https://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/tentmaking

 

Larry Sharp is the Founder and current Director of Strategic Training and Partnerships of a Business for Transformation (BAM, B4t) consulting firm, International Business and Education Consultants (www.ibecventures.com). Larry served 21 years in Brazil and then 20 years as Crossworld VP of Operations and as Vice President of Business Partnerships. He is currently a VP Emeritus and consultant with Crossworld. Since 2007 he has devoted energies toward Business as Mission (BAM) and currently is a consultant on BAM and education themes. Larry travels within North America speaking and teaching in conferences, colleges and churches on themes related to Business As Mission (BAM, B4t) and missions.  His travels abroad relate to BAM, crisis preparation and management, and team building. 

 

 

Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

By Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

Read more

7 Creative Ways Practitioners Integrate Business and Mission

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Our goal is to provide the BAM Community with the best content and resources available. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting various articles and resources which have stood out above the rest. Below is the “Most Popular Post” for the spring of 2015.

Please enjoy and thanks for following!

We are launching a new series on the topic of ‘Integration of Mission and Business’. A defining characteristic of a BAM company is that it intentionally integrates mission with business. But what does that look like in practice? What are some creative ways that practitioners work out their goals for spiritual impact, alongside their commercial, social and environmental goals?

We asked a small group of practitioners to share what they do in the business context that moves them towards their missional goals and spiritual impact. This could be something they did when establishing the company, or practices they do on a regular basis in the day-to-day life of the business. The practitioners shared a diverse range of specific practices, but there were some common themes. These seven ways to integrate business and mission stood out:

Keep Purpose Front and Center

Keeping the purpose, vision and objectives of the company at the forefront emerged as a key principle. This is important all the way through the life of the company, from the planning stages and goal setting, to evaluating those goals and choosing measures, to on-boarding processes for new hires, to daily communication with employees. Read more

Lessons from the Edge: Integrating Mission and Business in Your Business Preparations

Insights from a BAM Practitioner 

Peter has lived and worked in a professional and business capacity for over 40 years throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South and North America and is a pioneer in the business as mission movement. He currently consults on business as mission all over the world and is the CEO of a global investment fund for BAM enterprise in the Arab world and Asia. 

Preparation must consider both business preparation and missiological preparation
This is about recognising what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences; the tapestry woven together in their life before the BAM entity begins. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies? Mentors should begin with: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that.

Gain an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to
What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? Where has God called you to do BAM and what might he want to do through the business? What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What are the needs? What is the market? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? This stage will include formal market research, missiological research, taking exploratory trips, etc. Avoid the stumbling block of falling in love with your product and discovering after the fact that the market doesn’t have the same affinity for it! The BAM practitioner will need someone who is business-minded to ask good questions. Also avoid the other stumbling block of an inadequate understanding of the missiological, anthropological, and sociological issues that are at play.

Work together with national Christians to gain understanding
Engage in a dialogue that will shape understanding about the context and what the business is going to be. This will involve persuading each other of the vision and intent of the company, and further refining what might work and what won’t. This should be bilateral; an expat that is not willing to listen to national Christians on what tweaking and refinement is needed is doomed to failure.  This of course is not the same thing as listening to all voices – for there will be many nay-sayers and people who just don’t get it. Choose your national counsellors with discernment and humility.


These Lessons were first shared in the BAM Think Tank Report on BAM Incubation, and published on the Blog in full here.

5 Stages of the Birth of a New BAM Company

by Peter Shaukat

Peter Shaukat, CEO of Transformational SME (TSME), identifies five stages in the emergence of a new business as mission company. Each stage, from conception to launch, involves the integration of missional and commercial elements.

Preparation Stage

This is before the ‘baby is born’, the preparation that has taken place even before the business journey starts. It is about recognising what God has already done in the practitioner’s life in regards to their sense of missional call and life experiences; the tapestry woven together in their life before the BAM entity begins to be incubated. Preparation includes both business preparation and missiological preparation. What has God been doing to both missionally and professionally prepare the person, in terms of their skills and competencies?

This is where mentoring should begin: Tell me what God has been doing in your life? Tell me what your sense of call is? Tell me how God has been preparing you? The incubation process needs to begin there. The incubation of a new BAM business is the result of the process that God has already been doing before that.

Perception Stage

The perception stage is the next step. This is about gaining an understanding of what is going on in the environment that God has called you to do business as mission within; and what God wants to do through the business. What is going on in that environment in commercial terms? What are the needs? What is the market? What is the specific missional element? What is the missional calling to the people group? How is God raising up your business? The perceiving stage addresses the question: What is your business going to be about, commercially and missionally? This is the beginning of the gestation stage of the new business. Read more

How to Build a Gospel-Minded Business: A Guide Book

Book Review: From Concept to Scale

From Concept to Scale is a collaborative production out of Praxis Labs. The book information reads:

From Concept to Scale tackles the inevitable challenges every entrepreneur faces when bringing something new into the world. Starting with a Gospel-minded approach to organizational development, the authors examine the opportunities and common pitfalls leaders encounter in the areas of product development, financing, organizational culture, board development, partnerships, time management, and more

from concept to scale coverIn this book, authors Steve Graves, Dave Blanchard, and Josh Kwan have constructed a guide to lead entrepreneurs through practical steps – to go from an idea to a fully operational, sustaining, entity – in what they call a “Field Guide for Entrepreneurs”. A comprehensive and very practical guide this presents less like a book of rules and more like a ‘painter’s palette’, with suggested tools and techniques from which to draw from. While being accessible for the beginner, there is at times an assumption of readers previous experience. While terms are defined as they are introduced, a comprehensive glossary of terms and phrases would also have been helpful.

I found their step-by-step approach, with ‘learn by doing’ practical exercises, to be a great aide in reinforcing the ideas presented. There was a thorough run-through of issues to consider at each stage of organizational development, and each concept was illustrated by the Q&As and case studies that were integrated throughout. The first-hand experiences of mentors and practitioners brought to life what it is to go ‘From Concept to Scale’. Read more

4 Natural Tensions of the Pushed Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. In Part 2 I unpacked some of the tensions that occur when you ‘Hitch Together’ business and mission. Here is more about ‘Pushed Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Pushed Together’ Model

Business as mission is where the goals and roles of business operations and missional life are aligned. The ‘ministry’ happens in the context of life in business and out of the activities of the business itself. Although it’s all ‘mission’, it is legitimate to consider different kinds of goals and impacts: commercial, social, environmental and spiritual – because we measure along multiple bottom lines. Specific activities will be focused on producing results for one or more of those bottom lines.
Pushed Together graphic 2
Those pushing the circles together will not, however, be immune to tension. Here are just a few of the kinds that will be encountered:
Read more

4 Tensions to Avoid of the Hitched Together Model

We are exploring the integration of business and mission, and the tensions this integration can produce. In Part 1 I introduced two different models of connecting mission with business: ‘Hitched Together’ and ‘Pushed Together’. Here is more about ‘Hitched Together’ and the tensions that tend to arise with this model.

The ‘Hitched Together’ Model

‘Hitched Together’ is when ministry goals/job description do not overlap very significantly with the business operation. For instance, you work in a business, but you do your primary ‘ministry’ work outside of office hours. Perhaps the business is a means to a particular end – you need it for a visa, or money, or access – but you don’t see it as the primary sphere where your missional goals and role is outworked.Hitched Together graphic
Some might say this isn’t really ‘business as mission’ because it is hardly integrated. They might call it ‘business for mission’ or ‘bivocational work’. There is nothing inherently wrong with being bivocational. For many people in ministry all over the world, it is the way they make life work. However, I would suggest there are some pitfalls to this model, especially in the context of cross-cultural work, and some natural tensions that arise, including: Read more

Hitched Together Versus Pushed Together: BAM Integration

Business as mission is all about the two I’s: Intention and Integration. In BAM we take the innate God-given potential of business to produce innovation, resource multiplication, job creation, community development, and so on, and intentionally leverage that power for ‘missional’ goals.

Business as mission is demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of business – and as we do so, engaging with the world’s more pressing social, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.

A hallmark of a BAM company is the intentional layering business operations and mission together into an integrated whole. However, just because something is intentional, it doesn’t mean it is without tension. Practitioners share that when mission and business are layered together, there will inevitably be tensions of one sort of another. But what kind of tensions and how can they be resolved?

Not All Tension is Bad

Tension is not necessarily a bad thing. Forces that tear apart can also, when managed correctly, support great loads. BAM Mentor and, Peter Shaukat, neatly illustrates this point with a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Suspension bridges use the forces of tension to support the weight of the bridge across wide spans. Shaukat argues that because success in BAM is measured along multiple dimensions – including commercial returns, spiritual impact, expanding reach and long-term influence – that success in BAM is therefore is dependent on being able to effectively manage tension. Read more

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball: Resolving Business Tensions

by David Skews

Tensions tend to arise when we take our eye off the ball. We need to be constantly asking the questions, Why are we here? Why are we doing what we are doing?

Because we are in business and are employing business methods, it is easy to allow our motivations to become aligned with the world’s motivations, e.g. to make profit for its own sake or only increase shareholder value. There may be nothing inherently wrong with these goals but they do not reflect the primary aims of a BAM business. The focus should be on the benefits generated for people and for pleasing God, which then results in profits and shareholder value.  When our motivations become hijacked, our priorities become distorted and tensions arise, particularly between stakeholders.

Specific actions we have found to be valuable in combating these dangers include:

Clearly define the mission, vision, values and objectives

Spend time to ensure your mission, vision, values and objectives are all very clearly and precisely defined and documented. The idea is that when tensions, arguments or disagreements arise, these clearly defined statements become the arbiters against which differing views can be evaluated. For this reason, woolly definitions are worse than useless since they are open to being interpreted and reinterpreted in different ways to suit and support whatever arguments are being put forward. It is worthwhile revisiting these definitions on a fairly regular basis, first to tighten them up where they have been found wanting and secondly to keep them at the front of people’s minds and avoid them gathering dust on the shelf. Read more