Thunk Thursday – Power to the People

We have little power over people’s desire to succeed.

The above quote is from an article I read recently on the topic of usability/interaction design. It rebuked us as designers for “dumbing down” interfaces to the lowest common denominator. And I think there are so many areas of life that need this same rebuke.

Recently, President Obama referred to the struggles over the Healthcare Reform Bill as a failure on his part and that he “didn’t explain it well enough.” Without taking sides, that’s a pretty condescending thing to say. Early in his campaign, he suggested we should “spread the wealth around a little” with the intent to provide more opportunities. We’ll come back to this statement in a moment.

Churches are guilty, too. We encourage surface-level programs and events to appeal to people hoping to draw them to Christ or to serve the Church. We wonder why our giving isn’t up to expand our facilities, when we don’t have the growth to warrant it. We schedule prayer time. We script our worship services. We just do things that way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

In the business world, we implement process upon process to prevent failure. We trust no one. Management belittles the staff while the staff, well, we’ll just not talk about what the staff thinks of management.

We have dumbed everything down so much that personal responsibility just doesn’t exist. This is exactly from where entitlement comes. You need to explain it better, it’s not my problem that I don’t understand. You could single handedly wipe out my debt, or even the debt of a small country, so you should give. You need to help me understand Jesus. You need to train my children. If we just did things my way, this company would be thriving.

Every bit of this is done with success in mind. Is it working? Quite obviously, it is not.

Mr. Obama, I agree that healthcare needs to be reformed. I agree that the poor need assistance (it’s Biblical). Church, I agree that prayer and spiritual growth are key. Business owner, I agree that predictable results are extremely important. What I don’t agree with is controlling the paths via which these things are achieved. That’s whether it’s via taxing the rich, scheduling prayer time or firing people that don’t turn in their TPS reports on time.

In the book of Acts, no one had need because the people voluntarily sold their possessions and gave. They had a passion and heart (led by the Holy Spirit) to give. Prayer was a way of life, not a scheduled event (not counting Old Testament Jewish custom). Today, the most successful businesses are a result of a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Teach them, train them, and let them succeed. And in the process, if you let them, they’ll teach you a thing or two as well.

The answer is not to obligate people to give, pray or work. That’s only a little arrogant and condescending. As quoted above from the same article, the answer is to teach and train others. Empower them to take responsibility for their own actions. Lead by example. You can’t change the heart via brute force. That can only come from within.