Do Nothing (at your own risk)

Doing Nothing

Doing Nothing

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin wrote, “I didn’t do anything. That’s the first and best defense every toddler learns. If you don’t do anything, you don’t get in trouble.”

And, he is right. The only problem is that we sometimes never progress beyond toddler thinking. Scott Adams has made a very good living describing the dysfunctional workplace that perpetuates this kind of thinking in his comic strip, Dilbert. We who work in organizations recognize the foibles of the pointy haired boss, the evil Catbert, and the rest of the crew because it is far too common.

Of course, we imagine ourselves as Dilbert, the intrepid engineer who sees through all the gobbledygook, even if in reality we are the boss or HR director. We fancy ourselves as a clear thinker when noticing other’s faults but have a blind spot when it comes to our own.

Unfortunately, some organizations perpetuate the ‘do nothing’ mentality by creating a culture that penalizes something and rewards nothing. We are afraid to raise our hand in school because we don’t want to ask that one silly question, so we fake it and muddle through the best we can. However, at work, we are afraid to raise our hand because the boss will shoot down our suggestion, marginalize us if we come up with a bad idea, or may fire us if we make a mistake. Only problem is, we can’t fake it at work.

So, we protect ourselves by not raising our hand, not offering a suggestion, not taking a risk.

However, with no risk there is no reward. We are not rewarded with a raise, a promotion, or even a nod, for doing nothing. But, we think that is the way to success.

But, survival is not success. Success is success. And, to have success we must do something. So, what do you want to do? Are you taking action? Are you being successful? Success is a journey, not a destination, so keep at it.

And, if you are in an organization that penalizes risk, you may need to find your success elsewhere. If you are the pointy haired boss, you are holding your organization, and yourself, back by penalizing innovators. Your success will depend on the success of others. So, free them to do the work they are intended to do. Thriving is better than just surviving.

Image Credit: MemoryCatcher on, licensed under Creative Commons

How to End Service Myopia

Banquet Table

Photo Credit:

I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin in which he wrote about banquet tables. Yes, banquet tables. According to Seth, it seems that banquet tables are the epitome of efficiency, designed to hold ten guests with plenty of space for table service, food, and elbows. However, the inherent weakness is that banquet tables are not conversation friendly. If a guest talks to his neighbor on the right, his neighbor on the left is left out. If he wants to connect with the neighbor across from him, he must shout, destroying conversational intimacy, to say nothing of privacy and discretion.

The problem is this, banquet tables were designed by people who put on banquets, which is to say people who need to seat plenty of guests and serve plenty of food. But what about the guests? First, it is inconvenient to reach into the center of the table or ask others to “pass” things. Second, it’s horrible for conversation, and good conversation is one of the benefits of having dinner with friends. So, it seems that banquet tables are designed to accommodate the banquet servers, not those being served. There is something wrong-headed with that kind of thinking.

Usually, it is left to those in ministry to design and deliver the ministry, and that is the problem. When we only see what is close-up we get ministry myopia. If we are not careful, we develop the opinion that ministry is about those who serve, not those whom we serve. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach. After all, we are sacrificing and we are serving; suddenly, before we realize it, His ministry has become OUR ministry. God’s people become my people. God’s glory becomes my glory.

I am familiar with a new church plant that recently rented a building for their growing congregation. One of the first things the members did was add two nurseries. It would have been much simpler to have only had one nursery, but many children in the same room means more noise, more stress, and less personal attention for the children. At first, the nursery directors were working 9 out of 12 services a month and some volunteers were working 4 services a month. Over time, the directors asked more volunteers to serve and the load was reduced for each individual worker. Also, during that time dozens of volunteers worked painting the building, installing lighting, building walls, repairing plumbing, cleaning the facility, and doing countless thankless tasks, all without complaint.

When the time came, the church hosted its first community outreach and over 20 visitors came. The hard work was put in so that the building would facilitate worship, not hinder it. Yes, they could have made do with what they had, but it would not have been as effective in reaching the community they wanted to serve. That’s when the church members decided to forego their ministry and exalt God’s ministry. I think Jesus was pleased.

Read my related post about an organization that missed an opportunity to serve. Read it HERE.