Innovation is a buzzword for our current time. Everywhere you look, someone is writing about the need to be innovative, and organizations are bragging about how innovative they are.



But what does innovation look like? And how can leaders in theological education, an industry steeped in a long, rich history, be innovative while still focusing on mission?


I like the way our friends at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity talk about “Traditioned Innovation.” They describe it as “a way of thinking and being that holds the past and future in tension, not in opposition.” You can read more about this concept in Faith & Leadership.


The current issue of Trusteeship features a fascinating article, “The Innovation Imperative,” that includes excerpts from a recent panel discussion of innovative leaders. Although they are not theological school leaders, they raise issues that are relevant for all of higher education — student needs, including financial literacy, emotional intelligence, and problem solving; how to use knowledge in the 21st century; partnerships; global campuses; diversity; and the need for new innovation models.


The author suggests that sometimes a lack of innovation does not mean that schools don’t know how to be innovative, but that they don’t want to. Protecting tradition can sometimes prevent innovation. Creating a culture of innovation is challenging and requires fresh approaches and thinking as well as the engagement of the administration, board, and faculty. It requires letting go of some things and embracing others.


The Trusteeship article ends by suggesting that “we’re too boxed in to old buckets of education that don’t apply anymore.” In conversation with theological school presidents, this idea of the old model not fitting has surfaced many times. Finding innovative ways to fulfill mission and serve the church of today is needed.


You can read the full Trusteeship article online now.


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