“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”--2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV
Innovation is a grass-roots process. Until a leader comes to understand this statement, innovation will continue to be seen as something that is done by a select few in a limited number of organizations. Every organization—even the church—can become truly creative and innovation, but this will require a significant paradigm shift. This must happen first with leadership and then with participants.
Jeanne Liedtka, who teaches at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, writes that there are two paradigms of innovation and only one is truly about innovation. From one perspective, innovation is something only done by experts. It takes place in homogeneous teams who operate within their narrowly defined areas of responsibility or silos. In this approach, stakeholders—those who are the recipients of the product or service—are seen as figures to be managed and perhaps manipulated. Quite honestly, the “innovation” that comes out of this approach will be very limited, short-lived, and ineffective.
True innovation takes place in a paradigm where everyone is a potential innovator and their ideas are welcomed. Team are diverse, made of up people representing several perspectives, skills, and competencies. They use participatory methods to generate, evaluate, and clarify ideas. Stakeholders—both within and outside the organization—are strategic partners who not only have an investment in the process of innovation but can make a contribution as well.
A paradigm that is truly innovative is open and participative. All are invited to the table and encouraged to make a contribution toward solving a problem or generating a process that will make a significant difference for all involved.
For most of the twentieth century, churches, denominations, and most businesses operated out of the first paradigm above. We assumed that there were experts out there who knew more, were better trained, and could come up with better solutions than the person in the pew, the worker on the assembly line, or the consumer in the marketplace. That time is gone.
The world in which we work and minister today calls for the more enlightened approach embodied in the second paradigm. This approach encourages, values, and embraces the work of the Spirit of God within individuals both in the church and in the community. A new way of thinking is required to address the challenges of this time and place.
(A version of this blog originally appeared on the Creativity and Leadership blog at cbts.edu.)