Leading Change
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Steve Jobs Agrees: It’s Not a Zero Sum Game

“If the game was a zero sum game, then Apple would lose (to Microsoft).”–Steve Jobs

Thanks @destinoeric for this link on yesterday’s post. One of my fascinations with Christian ministry philosophy in the US is how often zero-sum thinking inhibits/de-empowers emerging leaders from realizing their God given call early enough in their career to make redemptive changes.

Steve Jobs talks about how in the early days when Apple was “at war” with Microsoft, they really weren’t:

“There were too many people in Apple playing the game of ‘For Apple to win Microsoft has to lose.'”

“Apple didn’t have to beat Microsoft, Apple had to remember who Apple was” —my favorite by far.

Personal Ministry Applications:

  • Other people with similar giftings/abilities often are perceived as threats to established leaders with a zero sum mentality; take out that mind-set and leaders end up nourishing and developing these young leaders, AND getting more of the results they desire, which ends up enhancing their reputation.
  • The person “above” and “below” you are not the only people that God wants to use you to lead/affect/change. Seems to me that those new to ministry fail to engage beyond the vertical axis of people, significantly limiting their ministry reach.

Corporate Ministry Applications:

  • Assuming ALL the resources needed to accomplish the mission are INSIDE the org–this leads to reinventing the wheel a thousand times and often what comes out is not a wheel but a really ugly looking rock.
  • “Apple had to remember who Apple was.” –chasing trends that are outside of God’s call on the mission, vision, and values of the org.

The video is 9 minutes but even if you watch one minute you will be smarter.


  1. Brian,

    “Apple had to remember who Apple was.”

    I think sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Its hard to know who you are as an organization (or a ministry) and be diligent to stay focused. Vision creep starts to set in until you can’t see where you are headed anymore.

    Any advice on how to 1)know yourself(org, ministry) better? and 2)stay focused?

    • my experience has been that remembering who you are is the hardest part.

      i really struggled at chico w NOT being about community service and social justice–often felt like we were the “bad/uncaring” ministry.

      BUT we were focused on engaging lost students and disconnected christians, and developing missional leaders. that took ALL of my time and energy. it seemed like at least once a month there was an opportunity for us to stray from that.

      a couple of lessons/experiences i had at chico that i’ve held onto:

      –Pruning is good; people leaving because they don’t agree is good–it means they know what you are about enough to know it’s not for them. watching leaders leave was the hardest–but many came back and were even stronger and more committed.

      –resources are scarce: to lead as though you have infinite resources is foolish; at Chico God only gave our ministry so much-had we tried to pour it out in every way we would have lost our call and effectiveness.

      –only people that significantly invest have a place to speak into the mission, vision, and direction; i watched other ministry leaders let any Christian challenge/speak into their direction–again how can they really be speaking in when they don’t know who you are? seems like big orgs can let people with little to no skin in the game have more influence than is warranted.

      what about you? anything you’ve learned w destino?

      • Brian,

        Great advice. I feel like I’m still learning so much of this and your comments are super helpful. Thanks.

        I’ve totally seen your last example where we let someone speak into our direction who has little skin in the game.

        As far as what I’ve learned in Destino, I think this post is helping me distill some of my thinking. Intuitively our team had to think about “who is campus crusade at its core?” What are the things that are non-negotiable. If we’re trying to reach out to a new audience (in our case, ethnicity), how do we maintain the distinctives of the parent organization while at the same time contextualizing. I don’t think you can contextualize into a new area until you really know who you are.

        If you look at how our team has tried to do this with Destino we decided that there were four areas that really made us (CCC) who we were:

        1) WIN – Evangelism – we weren’t going to try and gather Christians, we felt like that was a zero sum game. There were enough Latino students on campus that no one was reaching that we could be successful going after them.

        2) BUILD – Discipleship – Building these students up in their faith.

        3) Training – for us this is a part of discipleship but distinct from Bible study. We felt like Bill Bright’s legacy was in practical, transferable training and we wanted to continue that with Destino. We use NLTC but adapt some of it to our audience.

        4) SEND – Missions – We wanted to send to the world from the very beginning. Latin America had been a missionary RECEIVING field for 400 years before Europeans decided they could become a missionary SENDING field. We didn’t want to repeat that same mistake. CCC had a model of “students of the world reaching students of the world” that we wanted to be a part of from the very beginning of our movement.

        (I might add also an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, though that permeates all four of the areas above instead of being its own distinct area)

        Thanks for the post and the comments. Its helpful even for me to examine my assumptions as I do ministry!

  2. It wasn’t until this past fall that I realized I had basically been operating from a Zero Sum mindset with other ministries on campus. There is one other very large ministry on campus and somewhere in the back of mind I thought “in order for us to grow as a ministry, Ministry B has to shrink.” And that thinking HAS to affect ministry direction and strategy. We get into competing over Christians instead of pursuing the entire campus and those that have zero interest in ANY ministry.

    Great video – I could watch those two guys talk for hours.
    My favorite quote: “We are a software company”
    It’s really interesting b/c they are know primarily for their pretty devices (and, on a side note, I think that’s why Mac Computers are about to take off because of new software – the App Store).

    I think for Crusade campus ministry we are a Win Build Send company. And I think that is played out thru mulitiplying discipleship.

    And yet it’s easier to get excited about new (quick-fix) things – New slick websites, new publicity ideas, even new outreach ideas. Silver Bullets that will instantly bring incredible momentum and student involvement. But it’s the slow work of discipling student leaders and teaching them to be missional gospel-bearers that will transform a campus. I can speak for myself as a Director that I suffer from Presentation Fatigue and tend to get excited (and talk) about the new things rather than, year after year, enthusiastically preaching our bread and butter elements.

    And I liked your comment Brian: “Pruning is good; people leaving because they don’t agree is good–it means they know what you are about enough to know it’s not for them.”

    • agreed tim. i literally felt smarter for those 9 minutes.

      when i switched from a blackberry to an iPhone a few years ago–the biggest difference was in my consumption of data–almost 10x from my blackberry. sure i had a cool device, but i was consuming more data, and getting more about of my $30 data plan by 10x. that’s getting close to what he’s talking about in this clip.

      and what you are saying about the app store–people will end up using and doing more things on their computers, which will make those computers more valuable to them, which will increase their apple’s reputation/loyalty/etc.

      great thoughts re ministry–i’d love to do a seminar w other leaders where we all share our zero sum thinking and get feedback on how to break out of the paradigm–maybe for the blogference!

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