Newsletter #441 – Productive Disruption and Disruptive Innovation

A recent conference on “productive disruption” focused on psychology but the implications are much broader. As reported in Monitor on Psychology (May 2011) several speakers argued that “it’s time to shake up” their profession. Few of the conference suggestions were fresh, creative or innovative (keep up on science, recognize changing demographics, embrace technology, connect with social media, pay more attention to aging populations or next generation professionals). But this may be progress for professional caregivers who can be slow to embrace change, unaware of new practice and business models, or failing to prepare students for today’s world let alone tomorrow’s.”

After reading the productive disruption article I encountered the concept of “disruptive innovation.” This does not focus on the emerging trends that the Monitor article considered. Disruptive innovation involves the appearance of new technologies or ways of doing business that are dramatically cheaper, simpler, accessible and more efficient than the old, existing ways. This is disruptive because it quickly wipes out the incumbents and elevates the new comers with lightening speed. Here are examples:

  • Books on line suddenly appear, cheaper and more accessible than traditional books. now sells more e-books than paper books. Traditional publishers can be reeling.
  • News becomes available on hand held devices or computers, easily accessible and often free. The newspaper industry is disrupted. .
  • New and more efficient forms of education appear. Why sit in old fashioned classrooms using expensive textbooks when distance learning can be cheaper, more convenient and sometime even more effective than the old ways? Academia is already being impacted.
  • Drug stores and malls set up kiosks with nurses who diagnose and treat common ailments, eliminating expensive doctor visits and long waits for hospital service.

How might this impact mental health services, ministry, education, photography, communication, and business? Upheaval and uncertainty from new, simpler devices and methods, “have become constants in economic life in the U.S. and, to varying degrees, in the rest of the world,” writes one commentator. Disruptive innovations tip over what exists, catch public popularity and introduce innovations whether we like it or not.

Please comment on this. Does it have special relevance for Christians?


  1. Interesting question… Just returning from a conference on Mobile Learning… Had not really thought about impact on Christians… It does seem that there are some new and different ways to connect with people via social media which probably mean learning some new ways to demonstrate and share faith. Certainly many, many new ways to learn and practice spiritual disciplines.


  2. Memory of a time when interaction had to be face to face is gradually disappearing with many of these ‘innovations’ but the very human need for real human (as opposed to machine) interaction has never changed. Jesus interacted in a close and personal way leaving no doubt that He loved the people around Him. He offered them a way out of their distress; a way back to the Father who loved them. We can be Jesus to those around us and be a catalyst to pull people back towards each other. Using all the new and exciting innovations around us is great as long as we don’t lose track of our original mission.


  3. This does affect Christians and the mission in a number of ways. Disrupted people are uncomfortable, and are looking for salvation. They can find it a number of ways (coffee, unions, bars, clothes, cars, friends, etc), one of which is true: the death and resurrection of Jesus. Disruptions favor young, adaptable, non-rigid models of creation, meaning life becomes very instant. It can be hard to sit still and think quietly, read scripture, and pray when you are pushing the innovation envelope. Churches will look different: rather than big fancy buildings, we need lightweight designs that incorporate good technology: video sermons, podcasts, blogs, and web-based information exchange is critical. Music is modeled after an electronic, fast paced, model, none of the every-note-written-down, every-hymn-recorded-in-a-big-thick-book model of the past. The world, the context in which the message of God is delivered looks very different from the model used from about 1750-1950, but the same, good truth seems to be timeless, just as the God from whom the message is sent.


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