Discerning Technical and Adaptive Challenges
There are a lot of different challenges that we face in life. For some people, they actually spell life, “c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e”. But not all challenges are the same. People who study these types of things differentiate between “Technical” and “Adaptive” challenges.
Technical Challenges are those we know how to solve, they are mechanical for most of us because we have the skills, experience or education to solve the issue. What you do to solve a Technical Challenge is to apply your current knowledge or the accumulative knowledge of experts/authorities to solve the challenge. What are some examples of Technical Challenges that you have faced or are facing in life?
Adaptive challenges on the other hand require change…they are challenges that test people’s minds and hearts. When you face a challenge you are never faced before, you have to learn new ways and even sometimes choose between what appear to be contradictory values. Truth is, if you throw all the technical fixes you can at the problem and the problem persists, it’s a pretty clear signal that an underlying adaptive challenge still needs to be met . Adaptive Challenges require us to learn new ways and usually are solved, not by experts or authorities but by the very people who face the challenge. What are some examples of Adaptive Challenges that you have faced or are facing in life?
Here are some examples for your consideration – most problems that you have with your home are technical challenges – if an air conditioner stops working, you can call or repairman. If you need to install a door, you can follow someone else’s directions or hire an expert. Now, societal problems are adaptive challenges…there may be theories on how to address society’s ills but no one has a set direction to instantaneously solve the crisis.
Followers of Jesus are facing an Adaptive Challenge in terms of how to live life as a faithful disciple in the midst of a rapidly changing and complex world. We don’t live in a world that is the same as the one our parents faced…without using too many “buzz” words, we live in world/culture steeped in a weird blend of modern and postmodern thought along with a post-Christendom, secularistic worldview. The “Church” is in a new world facing new challenges. It isn’t the Reformation any more…people don’t refer to themselves spiritually with denominational labels…there are no more “blue laws”…Sunday is just like any other day and it takes TONS of money to be able to run a typical congregational ministry with rising costs of personnel and facilities. Attendance and participation in “church-based” activities dropping…congregations are closing their doors never to reopen again…we might even be witnesses of the termination of one or more major denominations in our lifetime. Syncretism, pluralism, political correctness, materialism, consumerism, and secularism are the growing “religions” of our time. The Body of Christ is facing HUGE challenges. Faithful followers of Jesus as well as wise ministry leaders understand that we are facing issues that don’t have easy “technical” answers. There is no expert who knows how to navigate these new and ever-changing waters. Instead of posing as an expert or looking in the historical “rear-view mirror” and yearning for the good ole days, we need each other and the wisdom/power of God to be able to address these new challenges.
For example consider the situation – churches are closing around the country – what may need to be changed? Can’t do the same thing over and over again expecting different results…that’s the definition of insanity. What leadership skills would we need to employ to meet this challenge?
For a follower of Jesus, we need to adopt and apply ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES into our lives. Read over the following list and see what you think:
• Followers of Jesus must learn to identify adaptive challenges.
• We then identify what learning, new skills, behaviors need to be acquired to address these issue.
• We must learn to look at these challenges with “new eyes” and be willing to explore new “wineskins” (see Luke 5:35-39).
• We must learn to identify and accept what loss will occur when change is embraced in order to address these challenges.
• We must understand that Community and Relationships are no longer luxuries in God’s Kingdom but necessities – we need to be able to involve others and hold them responsible for their piece of the solution to the challenge (a new embracing of the theology of the “priesthood of all believers”)
• We must be able to embrace a desire to hold steady, not give in to a sense of defeat or retreat or backing down – in many instances, adaptive challenges are spiritual battles (see Ephesians 6:10ff). • As we address these challenges, we must get on the “Balcony” – in other words, step back and see the big picture. We need to see that in the midst of action, each person plays a part in God’s economy – each has gifts, abilities, passions and a unique perspective that is cherished and necessary in the development of a new praxis (action based upon principles and values). We not only need to see what every person can offer but also we must remove the constraints that are holding them back from acting in the situation to their full God-given potential.
• One critical, practical necessity in the midst of facing these challenges is = communication, communication, etc.
• We must also, as one person put it, “listen to the song beneath the words”, in other word, listen to what’s not being said.
According to Ron Heifetz (a man who studies and writes on the reality of facing adaptive challenges), “to lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear- their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking- with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility” (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002, p.2) .
Questions for thought and Discussion – in your opinion, what are the challenges that the Body of Christ faces in the 21st century? What are the challenges that an individual follower of Jesus faces? How can we begin to address these challenges most effectively?