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The downsides of linear thinking, and why we need to embrace failure

From: Nonprofit AF

Social Enterprise Resource Bank - July 25, 2017

Today's post comes from Nonprofit AF and is about rejecting linear thinking and embracing failure. Nonprofit AF is all about finding the humor in the nonprofit world and sharing gems that help to take the work seriously while not taking ourselves too seriously. 

Below is an excerpt from the blog, "The downsides of linear thinking, and why we need to embrace failure," or you can read the entire blog by clicking HERE.

The world is complex. Therefore, to put order to things, we try to become more organized and linear in many aspects of life and existence: In battle: first we send the scouts to check out lay of the land and our enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, then we send in the infantry. In marriage: First, we date, then we have the parents meet, then we get married. In going to IKEA: First we spend 30 minutes finding parking, then we get panic attacks in the lamps aisle, then we get into fights with our partner.

In the nonprofit sector, this linear sort of thinking is pervasive, seeping into every aspect of our work, manifesting in things such as:

  • Logic models expressing a direct relationship between inputs, outputs, outcomes, etc.
  • Funders not giving funding to organizations until they have sufficient data and a “track record”
  • An employee giving campaign requiring organizations to have three or more years of existence as a 501c3 before they can even be eligible for funding
  • Hiring managers requiring formal education as an essential qualification (you go to college, then you get a job)
  • Funders giving grassroots organizations smaller funds, then slightly larger amounts as they “prove” themselves
  • Funders halting giving funds out while they do a strategic planning process
  • Rigid 3-to-5-year strategic plans that leave little room to respond to emerging needs

It is not working. In fact, I would argue that this penchant for linear thinking oversimplifies the problems we are trying to solve, and thus in fact are worsening and perpetuating them. The societal challenges we are dealing with are incredibly complex, morphing and adapting all the time; we cannot continue to believe that we can effectively respond to this complexity by being even more rigid and linear and believing that things happen in sequence.

Read the entire blog at the following link: The downsides of linear thinking, and why we need to embrace failure >>


Featured with permission from Nonprofit AF. Vu Le (pronounced “voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.

The NBA Incubate Initiative incubates new ministries, supporting social entrepreneurs of faith who are serving their communities in a variety of innovative ways and empowering these Disciples-led health and social service projects to focus on growth, impact, and sustainability. Learn more at nbacares.org/incubate or by contacting Larry J. Morris III, Program Associate of the NBA Incubate Initiative, at lmorris@nbacares.org.

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