Friction

Friction

Information is just about the most important resource in the missional environment.  You might think that dollars are.  Dollars make a difference when you are talking about feeding hungry people.  Make no mistake about that.  But it is information that leads to funding.  Knowing how to acquire funding precedes funding.  Once someone figures out how to acquire funding for missional efforts, missional thinking says that that person would freely share that information with others on the same journey so that the mission of the Kingdom of God can move forward in other communities as well as in theirs.

That’s not the only kind of information that enables the mission.  How to get into a culture is important information.  How to multiply a mission is crucial information.  Anything that has proven to work to initiate, grow, or multiply a mission is crucial information, and a crucial resource for others called by God to engage in the mission with us.  “Tacit” information is information learned the hard way.  It is contextualized and tested information learned through experience that is immediately applicable to other missional communities.  Tacit information is relevant information learned in mission context, and it is among the most treasured blessings from God for those of us who struggle in the mission every day.  Tacit information allows us to put pieces of a larger puzzle together, and it allows us to learn things from other’s mistakes and experience instead of having to learn everything the hard way.  And tacit information is almost always time-sensitive.  Move it or lose it.

Missional thinking says that that information is a blessing from God for us, but never for us alone.  It is to be freely shared so that the Kingdom of God that we all strive to participate in can become more visible and more accessible to suffering people.  Missional thinking says that anything we can do to create new and unobstructed conduits and networks through which crucial information can flow is time well spent and what we are called to do.  Missional thinking also tells us that the unity of the Body is the single best indicator of mission success.  Unity of purpose is what keeps networks open and tacit information flowing.  Unity of purpose between denominations.  Unity or purpose between communities.  Unity of purpose between interacting agencies called by God to be God’s hands and feet in the world.

Every time the flow of information encounters an obstacle, it not only slows down, it becomes distorted.  In missional jargon, those obstacles create what we call “friction”.  Information that has encountered too much friction and has become distorted as a result is no longer “ground truth”.  It is information with a spin.  And information with a spin is many things, but it is not “truth”.  Within dying churches, dying denominations, and dying organizations, all too often people are taught either through hierarchical carrots and sticks, or through implied curriculum, that information that no one else knows is a treasure.  Remember that in missional thinking, information that no one else knows is without any value at all.  If it serves only you, then it cannot serve the Kingdom.  It is either yours or it is God’s.  It cannot be both.

Dying organizations have evolved folkways and unspoken normative systems that utterly disrupt unity of purpose and reward the protection of information to gain personal and professional leverage within the hierarchy of the organization or community.  In short, functionaries and professionals within these systems are taught that they are to lock up whatever information they gain, and guard it from theft by other organizations at all cost.  In these systems, information is a commodity to be sold or traded for something in return.  It only takes one player in a missional network to create enough friction for all the information flowing through that system to become contaminated.  One person functioning as an informational “commodities trader” can slow the flow of crucial tacit information to the point where the information is pushed out of its timetable of relevance, or the information is so tainted by spin and political stuff that is no longer even true.

My experience, for what it’s worth, tells me that the only way to get the flow going again is to reroute information around the point of friction by creating new contacts and new partners who aren’t playing that game.  In other words, the only way to get the flow going is to cut that section of pipe out of the plumbing.  As Christ-followers who have received Grace, we can go back and patiently clean out that pipe by teaching the people creating friction a better Way, a more Kingdom-like Way.  And once they get it, we can put them back into the network.  But friction is a mission-killer that must be confronted and corrected. Hierarchy creates friction.  Organizational politics create friction.  Bureaucracy and paperwork and ridiculously complex permission-getting procedures all create friction.  And people who have mistakenly come to believe that information that they have acquired has been acquired solely by their efforts and by their brains and is thus for them alone create friction.  They slow the spread of the Kingdom by slowing the spread of information to the missional network.  Information is a blessing from God.  Tacit information is a treasure of Heaven.  It is for us, but it is never for us alone.  Like living water, take what you need, but let it flow on to others who need it just as badly as you do.  Missional thinking says that information networks should, as gifts from God, have little or no friction.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: