Sparking Creativity: Yes We Can If...

By Megan Foley

light bulb in a thought bubble

The following information is from the fascinating book, A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden. (Wiley 2015).

When thinking about needed or wanted change, congregations can sometimes feel stymied. Longtime members have ‘seen it all.’ They can feel they’re already doing everything that’s possible, and the rest just won’t work. When new suggestions, directions, or urgent needs arise, already tired leaders may immediately see the barriers and not the possibilities. And, let’s face it, human systems like religious communities don’t tend to like to change. In a way, we need to trick the system in order to allow in energy and creativity.

One way to do that is to develop a Can-If map (see the reference below). Here’s how:

Start each sentence with “We can do it IF….”. This helps keep the focus on how something might be possible, not whether it might be possible. This is a time for wild ideas! What conditions would have to exist to make this thing work?

Think of wanting to start your restaurant business, but not having enough money to rent or renovate a location. Seems insurmountable, right? You need the place – you don’t have the money for a place – you can’t have the restaurant. At some point some folks wondered, “we could do it IF….we didn’t need a permanent location!” and the food truck industry was born. The act of wondering how something you want could be possible helps spark creative ideas and energy. Yum!

What’s your congregation’s version of the food truck invention? Morgan and Barden offer several prompts in the Can-If map for your use. Try them out in your community and see if any of them help you move ahead to the next inspiring level!

  • We can….if we resource it by ______.
  • We can…if we substitute ___ for ___.
  • We can….if we remove ___ to allow us to ___.
  • We can…if we introduce a _____.
  • We can…if we fund it by _____.
  • We can…if we think of it as _______.
  • We can…if we use other people to ______.
  • We can…if we mix together _______.
  • We can…if we access the knowledge of _______.

About the Author

Megan Foley

Rev. Megan Foley serves as Regional Lead for the Central East Region staff. Before joining regional staff she served for six years as the minister of the Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists in Germantown, Maryland....

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