“Innovation is not the holy grail”

A passage from the article titled “Innovation is not the holy grail,” by Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair, in the Fall, 2012 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review (vol. 10, no. 4), interspersed with my comments:

We believe three oversights contribute to a tendency to concurrently overrate and undervalue innovation and to downplay the difficulties of enabling innovation in social sector organizations.

First, innovation is often perceived as a development shortcut; thus innovation becomes overrated. The tremendous value that is created by incremental improvements of the core, routine activities of social sector organizations gets sidelined. Therefore pushing innovation at the expense of strengthening more routine activities may actually destroy rather than create value.

The core, routine activities of the typical congregation are worship services, religious education for young people, and pastoral care. So for congregations, this would imply that innovations that sideline incremental improvements to these core, routine activities — which may include major building projects, social enterprises (i.e., ventures that make money), cafes, radically innovative worship services — may destroy value. And in fact, we’ve all seen this happen — building projects that result in decreased Sunday morning attendance, social justice projects that take so much energy that pastoral care is degraded, social enterprises that distract from the congregation’s primary mission. Continue reading ““Innovation is not the holy grail””