The Impacts of Organizational Culture on Innovation

BY: The Center for Youth Ministry Training

 

To borrow a metaphor from Jesus and farming, a church’s organizational culture is like soil — a living ecosystem that sustains innovation to varying degrees. A church’s culture constitutes the soil into which innovative seeds are planted. Healthy cultural soil is able to nourish innovative ministries that engage people’s assets and needs so the community can experience the love and grace of Christ in profound ways. Therefore, a church must examine its “soil” to understand how effective their efforts to innovate might be.

 

The examination of a church’s “soil” means that a church must look at factors that promote or hinder innovation. A church’s efforts to innovate in any one ministry area, say the youth ministry, never unfold in a vacuum. Aspects of the church’s wider culture have everything to do with whether an innovative ministry idea can take root in the youth ministry, let alone flourish within the broader congregation. A thorough cultural assessment of the church not only helps individual ministries better understand how the church’s culture influences their innovation process, but it also provides a snapshot of the wider cultural context. Through the Lab’s work with churches around the country, we learned that attention to organizational culture is just as important as the process through which innovation actually happens. 

 

Assessing a church’s culture is paramount to the ability to develop innovative ministry. Churches cannot make adjustments to their organizational culture if they do not know it needs attention. Taking time to assess the church’s current culture helps identify what is going on and identify areas in need of modification so that innovation becomes increasingly possible. 

 

The Innovation Lab developed a tool called the Innovation Culture Index (ICI) to help congregations self-assess their culture and its impact on innovation. Drawing from empirical research and the wisdom of leaders in innovation design, we identified characteristics that are strongly associated with a church’s ability to foster innovation. We grouped characteristics into nine distinct indicators that examine the church’s mindset, structure, relationships, and habits. Through the ICI, churches begin to assess and understand their ability to create and foster innovation. 

 

Along with the ICI, the Innovation Lab offers other resources and tools focused on helping churches and organizations learn more about their culture’s impact on innovative potential. To learn more, contact the Innovation Lab via email innovation@cymt.org.

To download the Lab’s free ICI resource, click here.

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