Newsletter #469 – The Fascination with Innovation

There’s a fascination with innovation in most of the business magazines and many of the leadership books I read. Inc. discusses innovation in almost every issue. Same with Harvard Business Review (see June 2011 issue on “How Great Leaders Unleash Innovation”) and currently Fast Company with its annual ranking of the world’s 50 most innovative companies.  In times of explosive change it is not surprising that individuals and organizations want to keep up and creatively move ahead of their competition in impacting their market groups. Even culturally sensitive churches and universities are in the game (as in Christensen and Eyring’s 2011 book The Innovative University).

Simply defined, innovations are new ideas or methods. Most innovations are creative, novel, relevant, sometimes revolutionary ways to bring improvements. It’s overwhelming to read the profiles of Fast Company’s innovative companies and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It is easy, as well, to be humbled by what others are doing and ponder how far we fall behind. I tried to read with this question in mind: “How do these innovations apply to me and to what God has called and gifted me to do?” Here are a few observations.

  • Some people are more innovative than others. Exposure to new ideas and diverse, creative people may be a key for developing innovation. Doing the same things in the same ways with the same people squelches innovation.
  • Like creativity and change, innovation for the sake of being different is of limited value. Apart from the fun and challenge involved, why innovate if it has no purpose?
  • Innovation is risky and often expensive. Sometimes the risk is not worth the cost.
  • Innovation appears to be linked to personalities. Many of my friends fall into one of two categories. Some are entrepreneurs who try new things enthusiastically, often fail, but periodically succeed admirably. Others play it safe and are glad to avoid the risks. We need both in our professions and churches.
  • Effective innovations often come from teams with three kinds of people: creative people with sometimes radical-innovative ideas, detail-oriented people who pay attention to usefulness and cost, and conformists who stimulate cooperation and a measure of realism.
  • I wonder what God thinks of our fascination with innovation?

What do you think? What would you add to the list?

    • billgbill
    • February 23rd, 2012

    My guess God enjoys watching us create. He is the ultimate creator. My question is how do you fuel innovation?

    The church lacks the culture of innovation. I see it in large churches but small churches are lacking. How do we kick start it?

    • This question from Bill is a hard one with no easy answers. I think that some people are innately more innovative than others. Also, some ae more inclined to take risks. I try to find and get to know these people. I also keep an eye open to read about them and learn from them.
      This may be a crazy example but when I listen to a speech or sermon I often draw a line down my page, take notes on one side and in the other column write down what the speaker does that is innovative. I guess all of this is learning to be innovative by watching innovative people. And you need to be willing to take risks.

    • Carol McGowan
    • February 23rd, 2012

    I have two aspects I think of when I read this.

    Firstly as a Christian and being innovative is part of being made in God’s image. He is the greatest innovator and we are demonstrating that capacity in what we do.

    Secondly though is it because we have a short attention span and we need to keep being stimulated and finding something new and novel? We always seem to be chasing the next best thing rather than taking the time to stop and enjoy what we have.

    I lecture in innovation at University it is a core subject for a Masters Programme. Understanding creativity in an organisational context is fascinating but I would never suggest it be all consuming.

    • Carol, how do you teach innovation?

      I agree that sometimes we are so fascinated with innovation that we miss the value in things that are not innovative. Lots of good things are not innovative.

    • Amy
    • February 23rd, 2012

    There is, potentially, a fine line between the beautiful reflective part of innovation and the usurping (ala Tower of Babel) of God’s place it can lead to. It seems, however, that within the church we err too often on the side of tradition and not enough on innovation.

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