The Story Behind the NIV Faithlife Study Bible

“That’s interesting.”

I was sitting in church and following the sermon with a study Bible in the Logos Bible Software mobile app. The note on the passage was interesting, but I wanted to know more. “I wish I could click right here get even more information,” I thought. “I wish there was a plus sign at the end of this note and I could press it and it would expand.”

In that moment of curiosity the Faithlife Study Bible was born. I took my curiosity to a team of writers, editors, and technologists, and they recruited an even larger team of scholars and artists. Together they built the world’s first designed-for-digital study Bible.

Designing a study Bible to be delivered as a mobile app freed the team to think big. Without page count and printing constraints they were able to create notes on more of the text. There was room to explore multiple interpretations of difficult passages. Hundreds of sidebar articles were commissioned from respected pastors and scholars, and original video footage from Israel supplemented photographs and illustrations.

And on many of the notes there was a plus sign in a circle. If you clicked it, the ‘Level One’ note expanded to reveal a ‘Level Two’ note, often with a curated list of hyperlinks to other ebooks that went even deeper.

After we released the Faithlife Study Bible app in 2012 we started to get feedback from readers. I remember the first time we heard that we’d left out an important alternate interpretation of a passage; the editors agreed, and within days were able to revise the notes for the next digital release, which was delivered automatically to the mobile app.

In the following years the FSB was continually revised. Hundreds of articles were added, notes were expanded and improved, and the text was refined by the hundreds of thousands who used it and the feedback they provided.

From the start there were requests for a printed edition of the Faithlife Study Bible, but we weren’t sure how to translate such a large, dynamic, digital resource to print. How would we present Level Two notes? Would the digital graphics work well on paper? Would it be too heavy to carry to church?

Our friends at Zondervan helped us answer all these questions and more. Level One and Level Two notes were merged together; tables, charts, and infographics were beautifully formatted for print, and all of the content was carefully curated into a study Bible you can comfortably carry to church.

And the NIV Faithlife Study Bible addresses the need that inspired its creation: it helps you learn more about the Bible by providing a wealth of information right where you need it. The explanations, and even sometimes the multiple, differing interpretations, are presented below the passages that prompt your curiosity, with more helps nearby.

Partial as I am to digital Bible study tools, there is still something wonderful about a printed study Bible. The beautiful formatting draws you into the text. Graphics, charts and tables expose structure and patterns and prompt exploration. Explanatory articles unpack themes and offer big picture perspective. Everything is right there and neatly organized.

There is no limit to what we can learn from God’s Word if we continue to read and study it. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible feeds your curiosity with both insights and questions, encouraging you to continue that rewarding exploration.

How to Think Like a CEO

In a word: read.

I once had an argument with someone who didn’t want to read business books because ‘they all contradict each other, proving they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ I think that’s the wrong perspective; there isn’t one right answer you’re going to find in the one right book.

Every business does the same things:

  • Product: Make something / offer a service
  • Sales: Get people to buy it
  • Admin: Maintain the books, pay taxes, etc.

 Yet every business does these things in a different way. What you need is a mental toolbox. You need to have seen thousands of scenarios and heard what options there were, what choices others made, and what happened.

Then, when you are running your own business, and a slightly familiar yet somehow slightly different scenario comes up, you can reach into that toolbox and extract the right tools to address your situation.

Reading broadly puts tools in your toolbox.

Business history, biography, and general business books were an invaluable part of my business education. Other CEOs may prefer other genres. But as a rule, ‘leaders are readers.’

Advice for Your Career in Publishing

 
I’ve been contributing to other sites lately. Here are some excerpts and links.

Business.com

5 Things to Say to Advance Your Career Right Now

Your career is about relationships: with your boss, your coworkers, and with the people you serve in your work.
And relationships are driven by words, the most important of which are delivered in specific phrases that are like magic incantations, with the power to change lives.
Just as “I love you” and “I do” have near-electric power in personal relationships, phrases like “You’re hired” and “I quit” can start and end careers. But there are also formulaic phrases with the power to advance your career by improving your work relationships.

Publishing Perspective

Tablet to Tablet: What hasn’t changed in Publishing—and should

Some things never change: A hand-held tablet is a pretty convenient form for reading. An epic story is timeless in its appeal. But the process of getting the words to the tablet in the reader’s hand — and what can happen once they are there — is undergoing the most significant change in millennia.
The words in the book can now be delivered independent of any physical object, and they can be endlessly copied at no cost. We’re still sorting through the implications—and the opportunities.

Business.com

Is It Time to Throw Out Your Employee Handbook? A New Look at PTO & Policies

I work hard and am very productive. I like to hire and work with similar people. I hire people to create our products, serve our customers, and represent our company. Why wasn’t I trusting them to manage themselves and their work practices too?
So we threw out our employee handbook.
We abolished time-tracking, accruals for paid-time-off, and every rule other than ‘No smoking.’ We replaced our long, detailed handbook with a set of values we aspire to, principles that guide our behavior, and stories we tell about how we have lived out our values in the past.

Digital Book World

Why Digital Platform Solutions Are Needed in Academic Publishing

Platform solutions offer a way to address the special needs of a specific knowledge domain, and they make it easier to bundle content and achieve higher value transactions. Platforms are also better suited to unique content that might not work in EPUB format. Selling unique content as part of a platform-based bundle can help avoid commodification and elevate content above consumer expectations for EPUB price points.
For academic users, platform solutions deliver convenience, overall cost savings and higher utility. Professors and institutions can standardize on high-quality digital content libraries with a single recommendation (or institutional purchase), and professors know that students will have access to a large library of content without worrying that any student chose to skip buying a specific recommended resource. Students get everything they need through one portal without having to make, or weigh the value of, individual purchases.

The Grindstone

8 Secrets to Landing the Job You Want

Relevant work distinguishes you. Show what you can do by having done it, and send examples of your work (or links to examples) along with your resume — or instead of it. Applying for a job as a writer? Send writing samples and links to work online. Want to be a welder? Bring photos of your work. Executive assistant? Show me the itinerary for your last vacation or photos of the birthday party you planned. Software developer? Let me download your app. Whatever the position, there is something you’ve done or can do to show you have the necessary skills, and that demonstration is far more powerful than any diploma or certificate.
Hiring managers desperately want to hire you. Nobody wants to read a hundred resumes or interview a dozen candidates they won’t hire. It’s boring and unproductive. Hiring managers want to fill positions and get back to their other work. And if you know the job you want and will excel at, then you are the person they desperately want to hire. You just need to help them see that quickly.

On Mother’s Day

3,000 year old advice on honoring your mother, from The Instruction of Any, written in the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty:

Double the food your mother gave you,
Support her as she supported you;
She had a heavy load in you,
But she did not abandon you.
When you were born after your months,
She was yet yoked to you,
Her breast in your mouth for three years.
As you grew and your excrement disgusted,
She was not disgusted, saying: “What shall I do!”
When she sent you to school,
And you were taught to write,
She kept watching over you daily,
With bread and beer in her house.
When as a youth you take a wife,
And you are settled in your house,
Pay attention to your offspring,
Bring him up as did your mother.
Do not give her cause to blame you,
Lest she raise her hands to god,
And he hears her cries.

Lichtheim, M. (1973–). Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (p. 141). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Start now

When you’re young you have an incredible advantage for starting something new: you don’t know that you can’t do it, and you have little to lose and much to gain.

When you get older, you’ll probably have more to lose. You’ll have family and financial obligations, and you’ll risk being trapped by your present circumstances. If you want to do something bold and different, start now. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Don’t wait for a job, or a promotion, or anything else. If you want to lead, start moving; people will follow.

Growth

A series on the Faithlife core values: Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.

We spend a lot of years preparing to be ‘all grown-up.’ Childhood is focused on learning and growth and experiences in preparation for becoming ‘an adult.’

The artificial milestones of graduation ceremonies and significant birthdays at 18 and 21 only serve to reinforce the bright-line distinction between ‘growing child’ and ‘grown-up adult.’

And all too often there is a huge distinction. After two decades of constant growth and learning, some people pass a milestone like graduation and immediately transition into a completely different life as an adult: they not only stop growing physically, they stop growing intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally as well.

Why? Why would people spend 20 years in constant growth and learning and then stop suddenly?

Because growth hurts. It hurts our minds, like how you felt your brain was being physically stretched as you tried to master a new type of math or science. It hurts our bodies, like when you fell while learning to ride a bicycle or breathed-in water while learning to swim. And it hurts our pride, like when you were laughed at while struggling with a foreign language or learning a new sport. We all suffered trauma in our childhood that shaped who we are today. We jokingly call much of that trauma ‘a learning experience’, but the strongest lesson taught is ‘avoid that pain.’

As children, we can’t avoid the pain of growth: parents, teachers, and the world-at-large all conspired to force us through an endless gauntlet of painful learning experiences. Until suddenly, one day, we walk across a stage and are handed a diploma and freedom, and realize that no one is going to daily force us through uncomfortable growth experiences any more.

And so we seek comfortable positions, in our lives and careers, where we know the rules, can get along easily, and can generally minimize the pain and embarrassment of learning new things.

And that is okay.

You don’t have to learn everything. In school you have to learn what someone else decides is important. In life you can choose what you want to learn, and can even choose to quit a job that would require an uncomfortable amount of growth.

I have chosen not to learn another language. I took a language in high school; I tried to learn a few on my own. But I was unwilling to put in the effort and pay the price in time and discomfort. So one day I explicitly chose to take it off my list of goals.

I did choose, intentionally, to learn to appreciate as many ethnic cuisines as possible. I’ve repeatedly eaten some unappetizing things. I’ve developed a taste for things I once found disgusting. But I have chosen to draw the line at insects: I am confident I could learn to appreciate the grilled skewers of insects in the Chinese food market, but I don’t want to suffer the discomfort of getting there; I don’t value the resulting growth enough.

All our fears about learning and growing are true: It does hurt. It does take time. It is uncomfortable.

But there are great rewards for suffering the pain: A sense of accomplishment. Recognition and respect from others. Enjoyable experiences. Richer relationships. Better financial compensation. Superior skills and abilities.

I travel a lot, and I know that speaking only English means that I am missing out on some great experiences. My business and personal relationships with people in other countries are not as rich as they could be. But in light of what my business is, where my travels are, and what I enjoy, I am okay with that trade-off.

I do, however, want to lead a business. From early on I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I didn’t know how to do it. And I saw that it required skills I didn’t have. And I realized that business is something that is constantly changing, and that leading a business would require not just mastering a fixed set of skills, but continually learning and trying new things over and over. And I signed up for the hard work and the pain.
I still read and study. I attend educational events. I take factory tours, interview other business people, and force myself to grow through uncomfortable experiences like learning to speak in front of a crowd and to ask for a sale – things I was terribly afraid of at the start.

Growth is not a job requirement in many jobs. Many businesses want employees to do what they’re told, and to do it exactly the same way every day. They value consistency over creativity, and need only a small number of growth-minded individuals to staff occasional openings in management.

Faithlife is not one of those businesses. We value growth, and we are constantly growing as an organization. We need growth-minded people every day. We don’t have a business where consistency is more valuable than creativity.

McDonald’s wants the same fry, cooked the same way, with the same potatoes, every day, everywhere, forever. Faithlife is a technology business; we need to be improving constantly.

I could extol the benefits of growth in general – it really is great to enjoy a dozen exotic cuisines! Learning another language opens up a new world of experiences and friendships! But the growth that Faithlife needs and expects from you is specifically related to our business.

Faithlife is a growing business in a changing market. Next year we will need different skills than we need this year. We will need competency with tools and technologies that may not even exist yet. We will need people who understand our customers, products, and company and can lead others. We will need new ideas for products and services to offer our customers, and we will need new customers.

I hope you are one of the people who will be able to help us grow and continue to do excellent work at the next level.

Are you?

Are you growing? Are you learning new things? Are you developing new skills?

Most importantly, are you uncomfortable? Because that’s the real sign that you are growing. And once you understand that the discomfort is a normal, natural part of growing you can learn to embrace it. You know that it’s uncomfortable when you try to do or learn something new, and you know the discomfort goes away once you master the new thing. Then you can seek out a new level of discomfort in another area of incompetence, knowing that the satisfaction and relief of competence is sure to follow. It’s a virtuous set of stair-steps up towards higher knowledge and competency – and, in the workplace, promotions, advancement, and better compensation.

How to Grow at Faithlife

  1. Are you reading a book a month? If not, your career prospects are dimming. Top leaders average at least a book a week. (Seriously. See https://www.n2growth.com/blog/the-learning-ceo/ and https://lgdata.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/docs/2215/699282/CMC-White-Letter-4-12.pdf)
  2. Write an email or blog post in which you teach something. You’ll learn, too. (That’s one reason I write these commentaries on our values.)
  3. Ask “How did you do that?” Ask how they made the sauce. Ask for a tour of the factory. Ask “Why?”

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Thank you for investing so much of your time and career here at Faithlife.

Let’s keep growing together.

(See also: https://www.slideshare.net/BobPritchett/if-you-are-not-growing-you-are-shrinking)

Ask for improvements, not feedback

Your work can be better. Mine can be, too.
I want to be intentional about excellence. I want our team to decide that we are going to value excellent work and pursue excellence in our own output. And here’s the tool to make it happen:
Improve the work, not the worker. Seek improvement over feedback.
Nobody likes to be criticized, and most of us feel uncomfortable criticizing co-workers. And since we strongly associate the work and the worker, we avoid criticism of our own work and tolerate average output from those around us, even when we know we could help make it better.
We can avoid becoming a culture of mediocrity if we all agree to value excellent work. And a few simple process and vocabulary changes can make it a comfortable growth experience, not a painful critique.
Ask for help improving your work. Ask your co-workers, your supervisor, or anyone who might be able to help. Don’t ask “Is this good enough?” or “Do you like it?” Ask, “How can this be better?” Even if you think it’s perfect already.
This simple change in phrasing gives others permission to help you improve your work without criticizing you. It doesn’t assume there’s something wrong with the work. It is just an invitation for suggestions on how to make it better. And that’s no criticism at all, because everything can always be better.
And when you ask for help, you demonstrate that you want to do better work. That’s an important message to be sending out, and means you’ll get maximum help doing a better job, instead of the minimal feedback needed to stay out of trouble.
Let’s pursue excellence, and let’s not be afraid to expect excellence from each other. Let’s have the courage to say “I think that can be better,” the humility to ask “How can this be better?”, and the wisdom to know that it’s a privilege to be part of a great team working hard to be better all the time.

Shipping

A series on the Faithlife core values: Honesty. Openness. Awesomeness. Growth. Initiative. Elegance. Shipping.
It doesn’t matter how great something is if no one is using it.
We get paid when we deliver value to our customers. At the start, our idea -> implementation -> delivery loop was very short. We had an idea, we implemented it, shipped it, and got paid. Then we took the next idea and implemented it and shipped it, too.
Not only did we turn ideas into cash quickly, we rarely shipped a feature that wasn’t useful, we rarely wrote code that didn’t get used, and we were rarely beat to a new opportunity by a competitor. We had a tight feedback loop and could hear our customers clearly.
As the company grew the loop got longer and longer. The product was more complicated. We had bigger ideas we wanted to implement. We tried to anticipate needs, not respond to them. We had enough cash to take the time to do things right the first time.
This is a natural consequence of growth. And there are good things about it, and bad.
The danger is when your idea -> implementation -> delivery loop grows so long that you never complete the loop. You can discuss and meet and think about an idea so long that it never moves to implementation. Ideas that do make it to implementation can die there as they are tweaked, refined, improved, and perfected.
Companies can, and do, invest a lot of time and energy in things which are never delivered to a single customer.
And along the way there’s a danger of trading your external focus (on customers) for internal focus (on process/politics/co-workers). A short loop lets your customers tell you how good your ideas and implementation are right-away. A long loop involves a lot of investment without feedback.
Is there a danger of shipping junk quickly and damaging your relationship with your customers? Yes. There should be a minimum standard of quality. We value Awesomeness and Elegance, too. But an organization with a short loop can fix problems quickly. An organization with a long loop will suffer even more from mistakes.
How do you know when to ship something?
It can be hard to know. It takes judgment and experience, and even then it’s still a guess. There are some questions you can use to help you decide, though.
Are we trying to make this perfect? Perfect is the enemy of good. We don’t need it perfect, we need it shipped. Then we can get feedback, improve it, and ship again.
Can we split this project into phases? Are there obvious levels or stages or break-points in this project that would let us ship it in useful, but smaller, pieces? We can start shipping a commentary series with just Philippians, instead of waiting until the whole Bible is complete. Are there even smaller units? Could we start with just the most commonly preached pericopes in Philippians?
Can we test it manually? Is there a way to test the assumptions of the project using a much smaller implementation before investing in a complete one? (The first Logos Pre-Pub was administered manually, with no special code. Community Pricing was introduced and tested using Survey Monkey instead of Logos.com. The first payment plans were managed in paper file-folders long before automation was introduced. We proved the concepts before investing in implementation.)
Can we change this easily if we need to? Some decisions will be costly to change later (choosing your accounting system, hiring the right person, picking the coding language) and are worth taking the time to get right. But many decisions in design and implementation can be changed easily; don’t let those get in the way of shipping.
Is this the Minimum Viable Product? “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The MVP is more important at start-up then during the incremental improvement phase, but it’s a useful concept to understand and keep in mind even as we incrementally improve our products.
When I first started playing with computers I experimented with software and hardware. I had a soldering iron, built circuits, and hoped to assemble my own computer. But I quickly learned that not only did I need parts to build things, but a mistake with a soldering iron could break a part in an expensive way. Software mistakes, on the other hand, were relatively painless — I just changed the code on the screen.
There’s a reason we are in the software business. It’s well-suited to short loops, quick tests, and shipping incrementally. Especially now, with automatically downloading updates and web-based products.
Let’s get stuff out the door, so we can live to ship again.

Without objection

“Without objection, I will ship the alpha Tuesday at 10 am.”
“Without objection, this ad will go live on the front page at end of workday.”

The most powerful phrase for shipping a product, a web page, or an idea is “without objection”.
We are all drowning in email. But there’s no escape; sometimes there are a lot of people in the loop. So email discussions circulate, picking up longer and longer CC lists.
If you are pretty sure the project is ready to ship… if you’re sending this so everyone knows… if you just want to make sure there’s no typos… then don’t ask for a reply.
Show initiative and tell everyone what will happen, and when, if you don’t hear back. Then, assuming things are fine, people can review and delete your email without creating more. And you’ll look like an action-oriented-shipper-of-things.
Add a deadline, so people know how soon they need to reply if they do object. It also helps to put this warning at the very start or very end of the email, so it stands out.