The Creative Advantage

by Morris Ruddick on April 30, 2016


© Morris E. Ruddick


Throughout the business world, people are seeking the formula for the creative. Smart people are tryingPicture13 to discern the steps and advantages to success. Yet for centuries the greatest creative exploits consistently have been from the Jews.

Jews are a culture that thinks differently. It all began with Abraham, who risked shaping his destiny based on God’s guidance. Abraham’s son Isaac astounded surrounding societies because he grew a harvest of crops when famine prevailed for everyone else. The advantage came from hearing and obeying God.

Joseph, with no status or position, influenced his host culture by means of his prophetic gift. He accurately interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, anticipated and prepared for a time of crisis and in so doing, averted disaster. Moses then outlined the principles and practices that set the stage and advantage for the future. The books of Moses have defined the culture and determined how a people whose identity is entwined with God, think and then act.

Jesus came and raised the bar. Jesus released the fullness of the advantage entrusted to the descendents of Abraham. It was as if he had turned the mix of an emerging motorbike economy laced with a top-heavy, floundering accelerator system of high-stakes investments into a cultural advantage that would change everything in its path.

The advantage begins with mind-sets. Thinking like Jews begins with their identity being in God. Jews hold to the belief of being a prophetic people of God whose ways reflect the pattern of their forefather Abraham: to be blessed to be a blessing. For the most part, they have resisted assimilation and from age to age they have maintained their unique identity culturally.

Jewish beliefs nurture the dynamic of community as much or more than any other culture; but with the approach of being a trust society. They foster entrepreneurship and creativity from within and build incisively from the bottom-up.

Within this context, community-wise, when adhering to their standards, the Jewish people operate in a self-regulated, self-sufficiency within their communities. They nurture the type of stewardship that serves and reflects excellence.

The Jewish brand of leadership has the distinction of operating best through influence and service. Having frequently been a conquered people, Jews have learned the secrets of being a culture within a culture. Yet, as a people, they uphold the ways to not only survive, but to thrive.

Their influence has established middle classes in societies without a middle class. Jews have shaped the positive aspects governmentally, socially, judicially, economically and morally of what has become known as Western civilization. Yet, they are at their root, an Eastern culture.

Jews are disciplined and are willing to pay the cost to live for this higher standard, to sacrifice for the future of their people. Jews nurture and develop the next generation to hold to the secrets and standards that have been distinctive to them as a people.

Jews are a moral society. Their distinctive identity upholds and passes on high standards of community, entrepreneurship, innovation, excellence and industriousness that are also central to many Asian cultures.

So, each of these unique cultural standards have blended together to form a people who both train their children and operate in community, as a people who think differently. This different way of thinking releases creativity. This different way of thinking, this advantage has resulted over the centuries in Jews being known as “the people of business.”

Then Jesus came and released steroids into the Jewish advantage.

The Jewish Mind-Set
The Jewish mind-set begins with vision. When God called Abraham, He told him to look up at the stars of the heavens. He then told him that his descendents would be more than he could see in terms of those stars. God was releasing vision in Abraham.

Then there is a factor of looking closely at the steps to be taken. This has special bearing in business dealings and when evaluating opportunity. It is an investigative way of evaluating matters. It involves asking a lot of questions and doing good research. There is a proverb that says that the naïve believe anything, but the prudent is cautious and considers well his steps. That means doing your homework. It means giving careful consideration to whatever you’re about to get involved in.

Then there comes the imagination. Jesus had a lot to say about the power of our imaginations. He indicated that if we got really angry, to be careful that that anger doesn’t entertain murder in our minds. Jesus was pointing to the connection between the seen world and the unseen world.

Jesus was continually showing His followers how to close the gap between the natural and the spiritual. The imagination and faith work hand in hand. One of my favorite stories of how creative thinking and faith should work together involves a company today known as the Williams Companies.

During their early years this firm was producing $10 million annually in revenues. At its helm were two brothers, Joe and John Williams. The Williams brothers decided to grow their company by acquisition. In doing so, they put in a bid to purchase Great Lakes Pipeline, a company that had more than ten times their own annual revenues. Not only did they acquire this company, they made the new operation successful. But at the time they made the acquisition, the Wall Street Journal had a front-page article titled: “The Minnow Swallows the Whale.”

A minnow, one of the smallest of all fish, swallowing a whale is a good portrayal of this different way of thinking. It is out-of-the-box. It is faith in operation. It is good Jewish thinking.

These three factors: vision and research combined with using your imagination with faith, then become the foundation for good planning. Planning is mapping out steps for the future. It involves setting goals, but then developing short-term strategies in order to accomplish those goals.

Entrepreneurship and Creativity
Steve Jobs created a company with a culture of creativity. Steve Jobs wasn’t Jewish, but entrepreneurially, he thought like a Jew. It is the reason Jews are known as a people of business. Jews are entrepreneurial in their way of thinking.

Genuine entrepreneurs have a different way of viewing things than those whose mind-sets are institutional. Jewish business thinking is more bottom-up in its focus. For years, Western university business programs have approached their training from a top-down stance, preparing students for the world of the accelerator programs of the venture capital world and fast growth startups. It has had its focus on large institutions while unfortunately overlooking the entrepreneurial approach to startups, which most of the big companies have grown from. Today, there is a shift within many universities as they discover the creative benefits of entrepreneurial thinking.

The focus of the entrepreneur is on the customer and employee versus the focus of the institutional thinker that tends to be on the organization. Entrepreneurial structure is more flexible compared to the tighter, more controlling ways of the institution. Innovation for the entrepreneur is to apply faith in managing risk versus the institutional thinker’s approach of attempting to minimize risk. The ability of the entrepreneur is to embrace change rather than that of the institutional person who is inclined to maintain the status quo.

The output sought by the entrepreneur is market creation. For the institutional thinker it is market share. The entrepreneurial leadership style nurtures and motivates rather than the institutional person’s tendency to micro-manage. The real product sought by the entrepreneur is a dream versus simply the products or services offered by the institutional thinker. Finally, the motivation of the one who thinks like an entrepreneur is to make history compared to the motivation of the institutional thinker which is to make money.

Steve Jobs established an entrepreneurial culture. The entrepreneurial culture fosters creativity.

GE had become a lumbering giant and very institutional. Profits were down and their stock prices were way down. The board brought in a new CEO who thought differently. Jack Welch thought like an entrepreneur. He began changing policy and establishing the motivation for an entrepreneurial culture. He removed those whose thinking stymied opportunity. GE was revived with its vitality restored.

The Struggle for the Advantage
The destiny of Abraham’s descendents of being a blessing to all the peoples of the earth hit a hurdle within a generation following Jesus’ time on earth. Jesus taught his followers to apply righteous power in corrupt settings. Jesus groomed his inner-circle with the creative advantage of the Jews. But this incredible Jewish advantage was culturally stymied. Infiltrators in this new sect called Christianity lost the identity factor that came with the advantage and with it they lost the power.

In the centuries that followed, the advantage was perverted and divided. The source of the advantage, the Jews, began being ostracized by those seeking the advantage and the divide widened. Today however, this advantage is being rebuilt as the identity factor is being restored to both Jews and the followers of Jesus. The crescendo will evolve around the restoration and opportunity that will be found in crisis. The fullness of this advantage will manifest as the crisis builds.

Opportunity in Crisis
On January 15, 2009 a US Airways flight took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York. A flock of geese they encountered stalled the engines. However, because of the cool-headed response of the pilot to this crisis, they successfully made an unprecedented unpowered emergency landing on the Hudson River. The New York newspapers called it “the miracle on the Hudson,” as all 155 passengers survived.

The response to a crisis requires immediate reactions based on experienced, decisive creative thinking. Similarly, preparing for a crisis calls for creative, preparatory thinking.

More than two decades ago, an Israeli businesswoman had just sold her business and was looking for the next steps in her journey of life. In a series of unusual encounters she began realizing that Israel had world-class scientists sweeping streets, inventors of technologies who were on unemployment. She designed what has become the world’s most respected technology incubator program.

Operating under Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, her program began providing the offices, the support and funding for two year programs to develop technologies for commercialization. Not only is Israel now at the top of creating new technologies, but the success ratios and the ratios of startups going public from Rina Pridor’s response to crisis outdistances any other incubator program of its kind. It is written that God will send rain for the seed you sow and the food in the land will be rich and plentiful.

God’s nature is to create and to bring increase. Abiding in His ways provides a path for His people to spot opportunity, to map out solutions circumventing disasters and to bring restoration. It is the spiritual DNA of God’s people as one generation has passed on this creative advantage to the next. It is written that the secret things belong to the Lord, but those revealed belong to us and to our children. The simple things confound the wise. The simplicity of obedience is in the ways outlined by Moses.

Jews have a long history of both anticipatory responses to crises and what some have referred to as destructive strategies to restore imbalanced economies. The birth of middle classes in societies without them illustrates. These dynamics have begun and been leveraged when the cultural identity of the Jews, as a people of God is being demonstrated.

So in talking about Jewish business secrets, putting into action the dynamic of this cultural identity in God during a crisis will produce opportunity.

It represents the catalyst to the creativity needed for the response. Creativity maps out a strategy that brings an unexpected and positive result. It is in acting with the heart and priorities of God. This is the catalyst the prophet Isaiah saw to release God’s people to serve a critical role in days of crisis as repairers of the breach, a time when the gap is closed.

This portends the advantage, being applied in closing the gap between the seen world and the unseen world. The story of Joseph demonstrates how against a backdrop of incredible adversity, with Joseph’s identity in God at the forefront, that God created an unusual alliance between Joseph’s culture and the culture of Pharaoh. Through this alliance opportunity was advanced as the impact of the disaster was sidestepped.

The words of Isaiah are pertinent in the swirl of the dislocations, reversals and uncertainty taking place around the world today: He said: Then you will be called the repairers of the breach, restorers of the paths and the dwellings.

As a people whose destiny is being blessed by God to extend that blessing to the other peoples in the earth, Jews are the ones destined with the advantage to repair the breach and fix the brokenness. It is during such times that Jews have performed most remarkably.

The Age-Old Challenge
However, there is a caveat. It relates to when these extraordinary people have lost their grip on this identity thing. It represents the other side of the struggle for the advantage that has warred against the Jews over the ages. It is the desire of Jews to be like everyone else. It takes place when the blessings of God are misinterpreted as success from their own making.

God made Saul to be king because the people wanted a king like everyone else. Saul’s downfall was because instead of truly leading the people according to their mantle as a people of God, he was more intent on wanting the people’s approval. He sought the approval of men rather than God and the people wanted to be like everyone else.

This has marked the dividing line of the advantage against being consumed by the destruction raging in the world. Even today, among Jewish believers there are those whose quest is to pattern their behavior as closely to the gentile believers as they can, rather than being the example.

Serving as a people of God in crisis is both an awesome and humbling task. The destiny to be blessed to be a blessing is not a retreat or a monastic setup. Pharaoh’s discernment of Joseph’s mantle represents the prophetic crux for the times at hand. As the crises build, so will be opportunity marked by the alliances between the modern-day Pharaohs and Josephs. Then will come the amazing restoration as alliances such as this provide safe-places in a turbulent, chaotic world.

There will be wealth transfers facilitated by these alliances, but not for the goal of wealth, but as a by-product. Success will be defined by the creative advantage, which will be the result of the mind-set and the cultural identity factor. The naive seek for a quick fix with get-rich quick schemes. It is a myopia, a short-sighted approach that gambles on the seduction of wealth. Short-cuts in this pathway will lead people astray.

David very wisely said that what has cost him nothing would have no value before the Lord. There is a cost for this creative advantage. Jesus pointed out that the one who loses his life will find it. He was pointing to the advantage, the identity in God. The creative advantage is in the identity and in the response then generated by the identity.

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