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5 Ways You Can Innovate (Even in an Old Church)

The organization I lead is 121 years old.

My sons tell me that the company is about my age. The organization has experienced many successes in its history, but, like any company with a lengthy history, it tends to gravitate toward status quo.

Innovation thus becomes the exception rather than the norm.

Though I would never say we have “arrived” in our cultural innovation, I must say that I have never been more encouraged. The present is healthy, and the future is very promising.

The past six years have been a journey toward greater innovation.

I am still learning many lessons, but I have five key lessons I have learned thus far.

1. Speak to the need to innovate often.

I keep the need for innovation as a constant issue before our organization.

Our particular company has been especially impacted by the move from print to digital. We could not and cannot afford not to innovate.

2. Give concrete examples of innovation barriers.

The organization does not merely need to hear about the need for innovation; it needs to hear specific stories of barriers to innovation.

For example, the silo structure of our organization has been an impediment to cross-divisional cooperation and innovation. Though we still see great value in the strategic business unit model, we now form teams across divisions on major projects. Thus, the organization sees clearly the old barriers and the new opportunities for greater innovation.

3. Articulate a preferred future.

Those few words are often used to describe the casting of a vision.

In our innovative future, I speak often about our becoming the leader in providing digital content in our industry. The more I speak about that preferred future, the closer I see it to becoming a reality.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.