Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Paradox, The ROI and God

The Paradox of Excellence is about our value becoming invisible. What happens is our perceived costs exceed our perceived value. This is because our perceived value becomes invisible and customers focus on our perceived costs. This is a simple ROI equation.

Yet when thinking about God, we fall into the same bucket. We take all that God does for us for granted, rendering his value invisible. Then, we focus on the costs of being Christians - resulting in a negative ROI. When non-believers talk to believers - we are too often focused on the "cost" to be a believer (what not to do) and very little on the gospel - the value of being believers. We Christians are viewed as "judgmental" which is the cost of being a Christian, aren't we?

Yet, the bible says we should be known by our love and not by our judgment.

I think the more we can render God's true value visible, the faster we can make the true ROI of following God so easy to see.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Repositioning of Christianity

Positioning, a great book by Trout and Ries, says that companies need to own a place in their customer's mind - a position. For example, Volvo owns the place "safe" and Maytag tries to own the position as "dependable." Companies are encouraged to capture a position in the customer's mind.

Now, what happens if the position your company wants to take is already owned by another company? Well, you need to reposition that company in the customer's mind. Smart companies have been doing that for years. For example, dairy farmers did a study that showed that margarine may not be heathly to allow customers to think butter is healthier than margarine. Miller is currently trying to reposition Bud as weak on taste (which was done in retaliation for making Miller appear weak on freshness).

This happens in politics as well. For example, John Kerry was repositioned as a "flip flopper," not as a thoughtful, reflective person. Now, its being done with religion as well. Let me give an example.

In a December 3rd, New York Times article, columnist Peter Steinfels highlighted how "critics uncomfortable about the religious subtext of Lewis's [Narnia] stories have been launching pre-emptive strikes to alert the susceptible." Steinfels writes the following:

"'The books are better when read without the subtext,' wrote Charles McGrath in The New York Times Magazine last month. "Aslan, for example, is much more thrilling and mysterious if you think of him as a superhero lion, not as Jesus in a Bert Lahr suit.

Steinfels also writes, "So far, the best of these pre-emptive strikes was an essay on Lewis by Adam Gopnik that appeared in The New Yorker of Nov. 21. Midway, Mr. Gopnik tosses out the challenging notion that 'Aslan, the lion, the Christ symbol, who has exasperated generations of freethinking parents,' is 'in many ways an anti-Christian figure.' Aslan, of course, is the lion-king who can liberate Narnia from the wintry rule of a witch only after allowing himself to be sacrificially slain by her and then miraculously returning to life."

These folks are trying to reposition Christianity as against "free thinking" and tries to reposition the new Narnia movie as anti-Christian. In doing so, they are trying to separate the art from its meaning in order to reduce its effectiveness. Could you image what people would say if the New York Times recommended we not read any polical subtext in Orwell's Animal Farm? Yet, these journalists are making similar claims.

Positioning is really about putting your value in context of something meaningful. That undergirds what we are recommending with The Paradox of Excellence. Narnia is book set with a specific underlying mental paradigm - a way of thinking which is the Christian notion of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.

Chuck Colson wrote in How Now Shall We Live that we are dealing with a fundamentally different worldview. This world view is the context that informs what is going on with the release of Narnia. Context is what makes the Narnia books so powerful.

What should we do about it?

Call out this re-positioning for what it is and address it directly. Don't allow others to re-position us. Recognize that context is critical and reinforce our value in society as strongly and consistently as possible. Reposition the repositioners. Highlight how judging us as narrow-minded is narrow-minded. Judging us as judgmental is judgmental. Call it out for what it is - hate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Consumerism is an OLD concept

Behind the Paradox of Excellence is the notion that customers are continuously asking for more and more. Yet, this rampant consumerism is not new. It's as old as the Bible. In Proverbs 30:15, the bible says "the leach has two daughters, crying Give! Give!"

In this proverb, Agur had been talking about how dependence on God comes from not having too much. Yet, the fool continues to ask for more. As Christians, we need to take the advice of God and be content with what God already gives us.

This is further amplified by Jesus in Matthew 11:16-19 where Jesus rebukes that generation for not accepting or recognizing the good gifts he gave them. Many times, we lose sight of the great gift God has given us and take his greatness for granted.

Friday, November 18, 2005

God makes his value visible - #1

One of the strongest notions of The Paradox of Excellence is to continously render our value visible to our customers. We take our example from God. There are many situations in the Bible where God uses "signs" to remind us of his value. One good example is Circumcision.

Genesis 17:9-11 say the following:

9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the SIGN of the covenant between me and you. (emphasis mine)

Why do you think God used the act of circumcision? Did you ever wonder that? I have! Yet, Whatever the reason, God wanted the Jews to remember a covenant was made between God and his people - for all the generations to come. God used this "sign" as a way to remind his people they were set apart (they were special). Also, it acted as a reminder of God's promise of a coming savior, the SEED that will save the world.

In this way, God has made his value visible.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thanklessness is the source of the Entitlement Gap

When we talk about The Paradox of Excellence, we introduce a concept called the Entitlement Gap. The basic premise is customers feel entitled to their expectations. The entitlement gap is the space between the customer's expected level of performance from someone (or some product/service) and that person/organization's actual performance. This sense of entitlement is rooted in envy and covetousness and is covered in an interesting way in Romans.

We live at a time where our customers do feel entitled, don't they? They are insatiable - always wanting more than we can provide. As business people, we use nice phrases such as "the customer's always right" and so on. However, truly, customers are becoming arrogant, boastful, envious, insolent and slanderous.

The interesting thing is God uses these exact words to describe people who have turned away from God and live in sin. Wow! Great customer attributes, huh? Why does this happen? Well, in Romans 1:21, the Bible says that the reason God turned us over to our sinful desires is because we neither glorified him as God, nor gave him thanks.

Interesting. It is when people aren't thankful to what God is already doing in their lives, they become empty and try to fill that void with all kinds of shameful lusts. It is the customer's inherent unthankfulness that is behind the Entitlement Gap and all customer resentment.