By Jamie O’Banion
Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen wove a thread of counterintuitive thinking into the minds of students and faculty at the Forum on Tuesday morning, July 22.
Christensen discussed how disruptive innovations, or new products of low quality, overthrow sustained innovations, products produced by industry leaders.
He applied his ideas concerning business management to the leadership and growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The challenges you see in the church need disruptive solutions,” Christensen said.
He said the Latter-day Saint church has followed a pattern of growth similar to that of industry leaders: solutions to problems have originated from individuals at the bottom of an organization.
“Many of the most valuable solutions have bubbled up [from the bottom of leadership],” Christensen said. “The primary, institute and missionary discussions were innovations that members of the church developed to solve problems they were having locally.”
Inspired local solutions implemented worldwide will improve the church, he said. This way of problem solving is crucial to the growth of the church.
Christensen encouraged the audience to listen to the spirit for inventive problem-solving ideas.
“When you graduate, I hope you will take with you this opportunity to be inspired and to the extent that you do the Lord will bless his church,” he said.
To attain maximum growth among members and the church as a whole, church leaders should give leadership opportunities to new members of the church, Christensen said.
He said ward leaders often play musical chairs amongst themselves, rotating leadership opportunities among the same people.
“We must enable people with less skill to do more,” he said.
In a question and answer session after the Forum, Christensen spoke in greater depth about challenges facing the church.
He said leaders in the church habitually put the “best people” in leadership positions without giving leadership opportunities to those who need to develop their talents.
“I think the biggest challenge we face in the church is that we are not offering new members the same opportunities that our ancestors were given,” Christensen said.