Sunday, April 22, 2012

My "List of 30" - a lesson from Mensa Mind Games

I'm sitting in the airport, heading home from Mensa Mind Games 2012, a national event where Mensans evaluate newly released board/card games and select five to give a Mensa Seal of Approval. While it was fun (the best way to  understand a game is to play it, after all), reflecting on how they organized the weekend reveals a powerful way to improve our thinking on any topic.

Each "judge" (i.e. me and 313 others) was given a "List of 30" games to play--I mean, evaluate--in less than 2 days. Yes, that's a lot. And at first I resisted. Couldn't I just play the ones I liked the most--that looked most interesting to me? But they stressed playing your entire list of 30, though. And now, having done it, I understand why.

Playing such a large number of games equips you to think and talk about games at a whole other level. Rather than discuss whether you like a particular rule, you end up talking about the overall purpose and structure of the game. It gives you a much broader perspective.

It makes me think of the quote, "He who knows only one culture understands not even his own culture." Those of you who've traveled internationally (or even to a radically different culture in your own country) know what I mean. Seeing a totally different way of living uncovers insights into your own way of life you'll never see from within it.

I know my understanding about what it was like to live in America really began when I took my first mission trip to another country (Nicaragua). And again when I took another trip, and another--each time expanding my understanding further.
And it's the same for thinking about church. In fact, I think one of the main reasons that I grasped this member-driven church thing (after accounting for God's revelation & grace) is that I had the chance to attend an unusually wide variety of churches growing up.  My family changed churches a few times when we moved and chose very different denominations. And I also got to be a part of a boys choir that sang in a wide variety of churches. I've experienced Charismatic Catholic Mass, African-American Baptist Preaching, and Korean Presbyterian After-the-Service-Kimchee, in addition to the "usual" denominations in the States.

In fact, it was so good for me that when my kids get older (my oldest is only six), I plan to take them with me to totally different churches a few times each year and discuss what they just experienced.

So the big idea is this: if you want to really think well about a topic, then you the more variations on that topic that you can experience the more you truly understand that topic. And to do this well, the more different the topic the better. I wanted to only play the military or empire building strategy games. But playing the make-your-partner-laugh party game, the ocean-themed puzzle book, and the 3D Tetris Tower (one of the overall winners this year) stretched me further and taught me more than playing only the game types I already knew well.

Want to make your church better? Visit 30 radically different churches this year.

Interested in improving your organization? Visit and interview 30 leaders in totally different industries.

What's the topic you want to think better on? And what's your accompanying "List of 30" mind-stretching experiences?

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