Give your vision away

This is the way to create movements. Purpose and cause are far more important than organization and ownership. It’s about walking away from the need to “box out” or defend our territory. If you want to accomplish something more quickly and broadly than you could imagine doing on your own, open source and viral are the methods to pursue.

But release comes at a cost. In someone else’s voice, your message might not be precise. In a chaotic movement, there might be confusion about what organization to come to with questions or for support. Most efforts at branding are limiting rather than empowering. Yet marketers are increasingly willing to do what it takes to make their story “go viral.” For instance: at the end of 2009, when hundreds of filmmakers vied to make their own Doritos commercial for the 2010 Superbowl, then engaged in private marketing campaigns to find voters so that their ad had a chance to air and then a church entered the competition and the national media picked up on “the controversy,” Doritos was the big winner. You can’t buy publicity like that, and it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t found ways to give their message away. They figured out what was sacred and what could be turned loose. The biggest result was an unleashing of creativity.

My suggestion? Build your brand around your ability to build movements. I think Wycliffe is on the verge of being able to do that with Vision 2025, our BHAG that the Word of God is accessible for every language in this generation. Counterintuitively, the likelihood that it will happen increases as the process gets messier, the definitions murkier and the measurements more difficult.

Young leaders aren’t into credit

In March and April, I did a series on young leaders. Another characteristic came to surface recently that I wanted to add to the list: young leaders don’t care who gets the credit.

You’ve heard the saying, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” (Interestingly, I just looked it up and no one really knows who said that!) Well, it’s certainly true in an open source, viral  world like ours.

If you’re not interested in hierarchy and moving up the ladder, but rather in being part of a team, then ideas tend to flow more freely. If you’re not into self-promotion and defending your territory, but rather in seeing your ends successful through any means available, then you’re free to celebrate when movements ignite and move faster and farther than your reach.

Let me point out a concrete example. Wycliffe is celebrating the fact that 109 Bible translation projects were started this past year. That’s the highest number in history! Who started them? A lot of different people. In fact, the only thing I can tell you with confidence is that only a very few were started by Wycliffe. And only a handful working on the projects even know that they’re working on a Wycliffe project. They’re working for organizations like SIL, Translation Association of the Philippines and Ghana Institute for Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation. The fact is that Wycliffe doesn’t really translate Bibles. Someone came to me yesterday and pointed out that a recent CBN video claimed that Wycliffe translators were working on Luke 2 — the Christmas story — for nine languages in Tanzania, pointing out that it just wasn’t true.

I say, “Who cares?” As Paul said to the Philippians when he heard some preachers were preaching Christ from selfish motives,

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

The important thing is that 109 translation projects were started! Let’s continue to work in a way that gives the statisticians headaches trying to figure out how to assign the credit. For instance, African nationals doing translation, trained by SIL, funded by the Orthodox Church, their finished product paid for by the Bible League and cheered on and supported by Wycliffe?

The fact is that issues of control and credit have crippled many initiatives before they ever got off the ground. God will hold many people and many organizations accountable one day for that incredible waste of resources.

Here’s my question: How can we make this happen faster? What about open source translation? What are your ideas?