The role of the fool or court jester in medieval history is a fascinating concept. This person, who was either mentally deficient or acted that way, was employed to tell jokes and provide general entertainment by a monarch.

The fool could say or do things no one else would attempt. He provided a cockeyed view of the world.

Of course, the role has been romanticized by authors like Shakespeare, so we are not sure exactly how much latitude the court fool really had!

Sometimes we need a person like that to help us clarify our plans and get a new perspective on a project.

Too often we are limited by our own experiences and preconceived ideas. We need people who can think “outside the box” and encourage us to do the same. Where do we find these people?

One possibility is the novice, one who is new to the field and is unencumbered by the expectations and presuppositions that “experts” bring to the table.

In his book, “The Medici Effect,” Frans Johansson points out that one research team made it a point to integrate undergraduates with graduate researchers and professors into their work.

One professor noted, “They have different ideas, ideas that we have become too blind to see. Many of these ideas turn out to be very good.”

They are not smarter, but they see things differently. Don’t be afraid to bring new church members onto your team. Their naiveté may be enlightening.

Another possibility is to share your ideas with an outsider. We often tend to succumb to “groupthink” when we are part of a cohesive group that is seeking to reach consensus with minimal conflict.

A potentially negative consequence of group cohesion is a fear of upsetting the group’s equilibrium. We can overcome this block by asking an outsider either to observe our group process or come in and give a fresh perspective on our finished project.

Finally, we might want to expose our decision to a skeptic. I know that many times our working teams are already “blessed” with skeptics.

The most valuable skeptics are not those who tell us it won’t work but who explain why it won’t work. These people may become obsessed with details and plans and can kill the creative process if engaged too early, but they can help to refine an idea or product before the team finalizes it.

Many church planning approaches fail because they don’t get these people
“into the tent” (or on the committee or team) from the beginning. You are going to have to answer their questions eventually, so make that part of the process.

In “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn explains that “almost always [those] who achieve … fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.”

If you really want to be creative, seek out those who can provide a new way of seeing.

Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. This column appeared previously on his blog.

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