Copy and Paste Community Growth?

I’m fascinated by how different organizations seek to bring in new customers / congregants / members. That process of bridging a gap in understanding to move from observer to participant is crucial, and certain methods can be carried over from one type of organization to another. And yet… the context makes all the difference in the successful reproduction of methods. My first few years in the professional world were spent with church plants, which for all intents and purposes are like business start-ups for the faith world. One of the most impactful lessons I learned came from attending a church-planting seminar and receiving a great formula to go and copy the process of whichever successful church we were visiting. (To be honest, I don’t even the remember the name of the place, which is already quite telling. Too much focus on concepts, too little focus on context.)

When we got home from our conference, we simply applied the ideas that we saw, and they fell flat. They were good ideas. They just didn’t translate well from one group to another.

When I moved into online marketing for businesses, I saw the same story told again and again. "Just follow these six steps, and you’ll have the same success XYZ did." "Be the next Facebook / Apple / whatever is most profitable today."

Look, sometimes it works. Sometimes, the context between two companies is so similar that copying over a system down to the letter is the perfect way to solve a problem, but it’s rare. Systems require innovation. Finding a way to make whatever program or platform apply to your community takes some in-depth analysis and planning before the efforts of applying begin.

Two simple questions make all the difference:

  • Does this fit my community?
  • Can I find a way to translate this so that it will apply?

We love step-by-step systems. I know I do, yet life is beautifully messy.

Be ready and willing to face the challenges of translation. It’s worth the trouble to be able to apply others’ wisdom to your community, but never forget that it will still take a lot of work. Be wary of anyone who promises that it won’t be difficult.

BusinessMichael Roberts