Harvard’s 11 Breakthrough Ideas for Churches

The Harvard Business Review selected the 20 most “provocative and important new ideas” for . Here are the 11 that apply to churches and why.

  1. Conflicted Consumers
    On the surface, business looks steady and customers seem satisfied. But Karen Fraser argues that many are conflicted, making them open to switching when a slightly better offer comes around.
    Lesson for churches: don’t be complacent. Give your congregation a reason to stay even when the inevitable challenges arise.
  2. Act Globally, Think Locally
    The ease of modern communications, according to Yoko Ishikura, turns the slogan “think globally, act locally” on its head.
    Lesson for churches: your overseas missions can be two-way streets of learning and support.
  3. The Best Networks Are Really Worknets
    Successful network platforms concentrate on the “work” to be done first, and then on the right technology to support those goals according to Christopher Meyer.
    Lesson for churches: don’t say we should have a pastor’s blog or a chat room and then work backward to figure out how it should work; instead, determine your communications goals and only then pick a technology that will work.
  4. In Defense of “Ready, Fire, Aim
    Clay Shirky explains how is wildly successful at organizing stay-at-home moms, even though this audience was furthest from the minds of the creators. By developing a flexible, open system it could easily be adopted by different groups.
    Lesson for churches: don’t aim too narrowly targeting participants for events; maybe that daytime program for stay-at-home moms also attracts retirees.
  5. The Accidental Influentials
    The Tipping Point says that “social epidemics” rely on a small group of elites to evangelize a message, but Duncan J. Watts argues that in practice it takes a solid message that can be understood by the masses.
    Lesson for churches: reach out and speak to broader audiences, not just clique leaders.
  6. Brand Magic: Harry Potter Marketing
    Most brands go after one demographic, usually young. Frederic Dalsace, Coralie Damay and David Dubois argue that the Harry Potter model, where the young wizard grows in age along with the audience, is the better approach. Lifetime value, baby.
    Lesson for churches: offer programs for parishioners at all life stages. Don’t leave a gap between, say, your youth group and your young professionals ministry where college-age students are left on their own. They might not come back.
  7. Living with Continuous Partial Attention
    Linda Stone covers the backlash against ongoing distractions from Blackberries, phones and other intrusive technologies.
    Lesson for churches: quiet nights and retreats are making a comeback…that is if you can get the participants to check their tech at the door.
  8. When to Sleep on It
    Got a tough decision to make? Ap Dijksterhuis says to sleep on it so your subconscious can operate in the background to process all of the information. If this were the Harvard Divinity School instead of the Business School, we’d say pray on it. Lesson for churches: let go and let God.
  9. The Leader from Hope
    Executives are starting to learn that a message of hope in the workplace isn’t a sign of weakness, according to Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry. Most Christians have the hope thing down.
    Lesson for churches: don’t forget the basics.
  10. Here Comes SBRL
    The financial scandals that have rocked the business and religious worlds highlight the need for financial information reporting standards. Robert G. Eccles, Liv Watson and Mike Willis explain how SBRL will be the answer.
    Lesson for churches: tell your moneychangers to get on board.
  11. The Folly of Accountabalism
    Accountabalism: eating sacrificial victims to off trouble. David Weinberger explains that “it looks at complex systems that have gone wrong for complex reasons and decides the problem can be solved at the next level of detail.” Gee, church registration is down so let’s get a committee to analyze and redesign our registration forms.
    Lesson for churches: fix the problem, not the symptoms. And beware the volunteers whose day jobs are Sarbanes-Oxley consultants.

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