Friday, September 18, 2009

How the "Block M" and the "Script Ohio" relate to Organizations

I grew up a Michigan fan (that's Meechigan for those Bob Ufer fans). I was taught Ohio State is from the devil, everything about Ohio is 2nd rate compared to my beautiful home state. Little did I realize how similiar these two places are; in many ways. We're both Midwestern and have a similiar feel, which I began to notice when I moved to Kentucky: Ohio does feel like Michigan. They're both heavy on the manufacturing front. And both major football programs were based on power.

You see for years and years and years, football has been about power, strength, and sheer domination. We'd get the biggest, strongest men we could find, and then ram the ball down the field. It didn't matter how fast you were, we were going to beat you with our size and power. This has been the philosophy at both Michigan and Ohio State for decades. The two teams were really mirror images of each other. Like it or not, Michigan is like Ohio State (just, ;), we've done it better). This has been successful for years and years and years, and recently as Michigan has won a National Championship in '97 and Ohio State in '02. But the game is changing.

The game has become about speed. The mentality is not to use power and strength and move the ball down the field, it has become to spread the other team thin, isolate a highly skilled player against somebody that is slower and less skilled them them, and then get the the ball in a place where they may be able to take advantage of their speed and quickness. Power and strength has been replaced with speed and adaptibility.

Recently, I was reading in a journal on my favorite sports blog that one of the iconic Michigan coaches Bo Schembeckler, was 5-15 in bowl games. The author of this piece wondered if this wasn't a product of the power game. You see Bo was the biggest and baddest bully in his neighborhood. He for sure will dominate local kids, but what would happen when be began to meet the bully's from other neighborhoods? No longer was his power as big an advantage, and he lost the majority of his bowl games as a result. We have seen the same result recently with Ohio State's mindset; they're good in their conference games (still overpowering the little guys) but awful in the Bowl games (playing the other bullies). I think he has a point.

Michigan has, in the past couple of years, changed its mindset. No longer does it play the game based upon sheer brut strength and power, but has changed its focus to the speed and adaptible mindset of 21st century football. (Ohio State has not, they're still big, strong, and losing big games to top-ranked teams)

This pattern is not isolated to football. The mindset of business, politics, and churches has always been about power and overwhelming the opponent. This played out in Wal-Mart leveraged itself into having the most buying power; politicians bought the most ad revenue for a market; churches looked to build the best buildings with the best programs; etc.,etc.,etc. It is about power. But recently, we've discovered that power isn't as effective as it used to be. We're seeing online sales go through the roof, leaving companies like Wal-Mart struggling to catch up. One of Obama's biggest strategic advantages was that he dominated the internet, a relatively cheap way of marketing himself; in the process cutting out the need for an advantage he might have (or not have) on the traditional media markets. Churches with huge buildings are finding that just having a building and programs is not what the younger crowd is looking for; the power of the mega-church is meaningless to a 20-something.

These organizations are realizing that speed and adaptability are what's important to running a successful organization. In my field - the church - we're realizing that just having a cool youth room, cool programs, and a cool youth pastor are not enough to bring disicples in; perhaps they never were. Perhaps, like Michigan and Ohio State, we were just the biggest, best, and had the brighest lights in town and thought that if we did that we'd be able to draw kids to Jesus. Regardless, we need something more now. We must learn to adapt to student culture, we must learn to be relational, we must learn to go to the students; this mindset requires speed and adaptibility, as teen culture and mindsets are very quickly changing. In the church, it doesn't only include youth ministry, our entire culture is changing and the church as a whole must become more reliant on speed and adaptibality.

As we move further into the 21st century, we're going to see those who follow the traditional model focusing on power fall to the wayside. In the same way, we'll see those who rely on speed and adaptibility thrive!

And I still think that Ohio is a four letter word. GO BLUE!!!