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The Intelligent Organization

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

By Garry M. Spotts

Intelligence has been a hotly debated topic, particularly around the question of achievement testing with students. The question is, “can you measure the intelligence of an individual based upon their ability to answer questions on a timed test by marking bubbles on a sheet.” It is a valid question, and very likely, the answer is “no.” However, we have found that teaching “test-taking” skills improve students' performance on standardized tests.

Testing measures a person’s ability to respond to questions in an artificial environment monitored by a teacher. But, if testing students is not an adequate measure of an individual’s intelligence, then what about measuring the intelligence of an organization.

According to an article published on Simply Psychology[1];

Today, intelligence is generally understood as the ability to understand and adapt to the environment by using inherited abilities and learned knowledge.

Typically applied to a person, what would we glean from this definition if applied to our organizations? How would you measure your church’s, your district’s, and the State Association’s ability to understand and adapt to the environment by using inherited ability and learned knowledge?

Each of the entities referenced above exists in environments that have experienced dramatic changes in the last 25 years. However, March 2020 introduced upheaval, unlike anything anyone living has experienced. How has your organization responded to the environment created by the global pandemic?

Virtually every field of human service, particularly medical practices, has adopted an evidence-based approach to decision-making. The evidence-based model is one of the hottest topics in the medical field due to its potential impact on positive patient outcomes.

As a field of human service with a divine mandate and eternal implications, the church and its leadership must become an intelligent organization by introducing evidence-based practice as a model for decision-making and ministry development.

What does this mean for the local church? Mining the information (data) you have about your church, your members, the community you serve offers insight and information (Knowledge) that will inform your decision-making. More informed decisions will potentially lead to better outcomes for the people you serve. The end game is to Glorify God through ministry that transforms the lives of the Saved and the Separated.

Intelligence is the intentional practice of solving problems to positively impact the quality of life for the people we serve. The intelligence required can only be gained through purposeful effort.

An example of data mining that leads to intelligence is:

Conduct a two-year review of giving patterns among the members of your local church who have been active with the church. The goal of the biennial review is to determine if specific events and or emphases within the church impacted stewardship among the members positively or negatively.

This type of review focuses on “pattern recognition” and triggers. The evidence gleaned from the review should inform leadership and provide an evidence-based model for future decision-making. The same approach may be used to examine physical or virtual attendance trends, participation in ministry efforts, commitment to the church's financial goals, and so much more.

The church as an organization and, as many are fond of saying, “an organism” will thrive in changing environments because it learns, understands, and adapts where necessary and when possible. The same truism applies to para-church “support” organizations such as district and state-wide associations, auxiliaries, and ministries.

We all churn out data. We collect reams of data and information that remain unmined and therefore have little value or impact upon the future success of our organizations. Intelligence as a function of problem-solving improves lives and powers innovation and growth. Traditions don’t have to be abandoned, but they must be open to evolving as environments and people change.

Are you interested in more articles, videos, and audio podcasts on this subject? Leave a comment for this article.

[1] captured Monday August 16, 2021 at 7:11 a.m.

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