Disruptive Innovation: LDS Examples?

One of the current rock stars in Mormonism is Clayton Christensen, a professor at the Harvard Business School and an innovation specialist.  According to his website, Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” which he describes as

a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of the market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors.

Examples of disruptors includes:  cellular phones, community colleges, discount retailers, and retail medical clinics.

In a blog post on the washingtonpost.com, Christensen makes the following case for how “disruptive innovation” has impacted the LDS Church:

Many of the important programs and institutions in our church . . . were innovations developed by local leaders, to solve local problems.  As our prophet and apostles have then learned of these innovations and their effectiveness, they have asked every congregation in the world to adopt the innovations – and almost everybody does.  Our systems of welfare, teaching our children, missionary program, and our ability to help the unemployed to find work, are examples of this.  Responsibility for innovation is dispersed and bottom-up.  When a better way is discovered, top-down direction drives broad and uniform adoption.

When discussing the need for change in the way the LDS Church treats its women members, Neylan McBaine noted the following:

Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, known for his work on disruptive innovation, often speaks to LDS Harvard students about how many of the standard Church programs–seminary, Family Home Envening, for example–started from the initiative of a small group of church members who saw a need and innovated ways to address that need that didn’t compromise doctrine or divinely mandated ecclesiastical practices in any way. . .

McBaine wants to use “disruptive innovations” to forward the cause of women (or feminism, if you prefer) in the LDS Church.  The problem with McBaine’s innovative proposals are that they are so minor they smack of tokenism.

And I’m not convinced by Christensen’s assessment that the LDS Church is deeply affected by bottom-up innovations.  But I don’t know enough about the history of the programs he is using as examples to know how accurate his assessment is.  (And if they were bottom-up innovations, have the innovators been given proper recognition?  Thereby encouraging other innovators.)

McBaine inadvertently alludes to the problem with bottom-up innovations in the LDS Church when she states that the innovations shouldn’t “compromise doctrine or divinely mandated ecclesiastical practices.”  For many Mormon, isn’t that about everything in the LDS Church?

Since I’m 67, I remember the pre-1978 years when the LDS Church discriminated against blacks.  Now we are discriminating against gays.  How do we change that problem, if the leadership wants to put it in the doctrine category?  After the gay issue is resolved (and it will be), the next big issue will be discrimination against women.  And the baby steps that McBaine is proposing will seem silly.

The major disruptive innovation of our era is the Internet, the worldwide web (not on Christensen’s list).  It has forced the LDS Church to be more forthcoming about its history.  It will ultimately force the church to be more forthcoming about its finances.  It has allowed for large-scale social groups to develop around issues, making boring church services seem antiquated.  It is now more difficult for the church leadership to control the message.

If you were to ask Mormons and non-Mormons if they thought their church was a top-down or bottom-up organization?  We all know what the response would be.  We are trained to be followers.

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8 Responses to Disruptive Innovation: LDS Examples?

  1. Susan says:

    The key word that is always used: “obedience”. If you are not following, you are not being “obedient”.

  2. shematwater says:

    There will never be any change in regards to the gay issue. The practice is a sin, and thus any change would be a contradiction.
    I can’t say whether there will be changes in regards to women, but I can say what changes will not happen. You will never find women participating in the Ordinances of the priesthood, as that would also be a contradiction.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. And please don’t quote OT scriptures to me. What is happening on the “gay” issue today seems reminiscent of the “black” issue of yesteryear. Many members said that the blacks would never receive the priesthood. “Never” is a pretty strong word.

    As for women. Women need a much stronger role in the church hierarchy. How that is done, is of less concern to me than the fact we are losing a lot of leadership skill by excluding women from having a more significant role in how the church operates.

    • shematwater says:

      There is nothing reminiscent between gays and blacks. The black race is born into that, gays aren’t. One is inherited, the otehr is chosen.
      I could quote the Bible, but as you obviously don’t think much of those passages, I think it more fitting to look at modern prophets, as all of them have declared it a sin.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    The vast majority of biologists would disagree with you. There is a strong genetic component to homosexuality. If the GAs say something different, then they are probably wrong. Just as they were wrong about “blacks.” The black priesthood ban was ultimately corrected, I’m guessing that something similar will happen with gays. The reason it will be corrected is because future leaders will have a greater understanding as it relates to their gay relatives, their gay friends, and gay members of the chuch. They will ultimately come to the realization that there is a strong genetic component to homosexuality, and that celibacy in their case just doesn’t make sense. Just as much as celibacy doesn’t make sense for you and me.

    But again, predicting the future is a difficult proposition.

    • shematwater says:

      Nothing was corrected. Prophecy was fulfilled, and that is all. It was known from at least the time of Brigham Young, most likely from Joseph Smith, and I believe from the time of Adam, that the ban on that race would be lifted. Such is spoken of by Wilford Woodruff, and the fact that the lifting had been promised by God is seen clearly in the proclamation that did so, as this promise was lifted.
      No one was wrong in regards to this, as it was divinely instituted, and then divinely repealed.
      The situation with the gays is much different. The act has been divinely sanctioned, and always will be. There has never been even a hint of such from any of the General Authorities ever, and it is still being spoken against by the leaders now.

      I am sorry, but I don’t care what biologists say, the scriptures declare it to be unnatural and a grevious sin against the laws of God. That is the truth, and no mortal science will ever prove otherwise.
      (And just so you know, a genetic component proves nothing, except maybe a disposition. The same can be said of many alcoholics. There is a strong genetic component to this chosen behavior, but it is still a sin against God.)

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    There are a lot of Mormon historians (and I suspect many GAs, including President David O. McKay) who would question the ascertion that the black priesthood ban was “divinely instituted.”

    As for the gays, it will be interesting to see how the issue plays out. I think it will play out much like the black issue, you think otherwise. More and more Mormons are questioning whether the LDS Church attitude toward gays is divinely inspired. I don’t think it is, and you do. Is the gay issue really a good litmus test to decide who is a good Mormon and who is not? I think not.

    You believe in a literal OT, I believe in science. You believe that the gay ban on marriage is divinely inspired, I do not. Is the LDS Church big enough for both of us? Should it be big enough for both of us?

  6. Pingback: LDS Opportunity for “Disruptive Innovation” | Tired Road Warrior

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