As the chief critic of grocery and drug store playlists for my household (an officially unofficial title), I was pleasantly surprised to catch Maren Morris’ Grammy winner, “My Church” the other evening while out running errands. While Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy” always gets me tapping on the deli counter, I appreciated the changeup. Needless to say, it’s been stuck in my head ever since.
– If you’re unfamiliar, Morris opens the song by confessing her sins with “I’ve cussed on a Sunday / I’ve cheated and I’ve lied”, lets us know that she finds “holy redemption / When I put this car in drive,” and redefines church as playing “the highway FM.” Classic and modern, she nails a conservative balance without a featured rapper or trap drums.
– If we expand on those two layers a little further, because we’re not just here to talk about country singles, we could argue that church as a concept is representative of a large institution with broad rules, while “my church” represents a local institution with much looser rules. We’re going to overlook the master’s class in lyric writing for moment and stick with this: both types of churches can save you, but there’s a big difference between institutional Redemption with a capital R and “my church” redemption with a small r.
– Because A.D.D. is a super power (rebranding opportunity), when I listened to the a16z Podcast: “Of Governors and Mayors, and Tech Policy,” all I could think was, its Maren Morris all over again.
– At the Federal level, the rules are broad, and the aim is capital R Redemption. Failure, and therefore innovation, is limited. Hierarchies, procedures, and operations with the objective of getting stuff “done by the book” is the message. At the local level, the rules are far more nuanced, and the aim is small r redemption. You still have hierarchies, procedures, and operations, but there’s room for innovation and failure, if you’re willing to make it.
– Herein lies the point: just as passionately as Morris sings, Governor Doug Ducey (R-Arizona) and Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigeg (D-Indiana) are daring to take on projects outside of the status quo. The projects just might fail. Conversely, they just might succeed. They’re making innovation a priority, not just because it could influence future Federal policy, but because they could improve the quality of life for their neighbors, friends, and families. When they talk about driverless cars improving the lives of elderly parents, how can we not ask, “why not?”
– Critically, they are doing it at the only level these types of policy implementations have a chance of working – where the consequence of failure is minimal. There’s only room for small r redemption, at the local level, but you have to seek it, make it, and “turn up the dial.”
– Your organization doesn’t need more metaphorical churches that run like they do it at the upper levels. Your organization needs more people with a “my church” attitude towards their local metaphorical churches. We need to seek small r redemption in our local communities, and to make sure we have a platform in place for all who want to contribute.
– We’ll still need the Maren Morris’ of the world to remind us what happens when “Hank brings the sermon,” but my guess is that Governor Ducey and Mayor Buttigeg both go home singing, “Yeah I guess that’s my church” too. Let’s all aim for that.