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If you want to change them, then...

Updated: Apr 20

My Dad bought a remote-controlled TV the moment they came out. It wasn’t that he was too lazy to get off the couch to change the channel, no, he couldn’t wait to mute commercials. He did the same thing -- about 50 years later – when Toyota first launched the Prius. Dad was always a car buff, and the new hybrid technology intrigued him. He was 90 when he put in his order for the car.

Don’t get me wrong, Dad wasn’t an innovator in every situation. Only when the new thing aligned with his values.

People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.” Peter Senge

If a new thing or idea aligns with a person’s core values, they will see it as helpful. If it doesn’t, it may be years before they accept it. An underlying principle of Appreciative Inquiry maintains that people will accept a change if they can trust that what they value will remain unscathed.

When Apple introduced the first iPhone, they understood that the millions of dollars they spent on advertising would only persuade about 3% of the population to buy their innovative product. But another 13% would be watching the 3%, and 34% would be watching the 13%. According to Everett Rogers, that is how innovations diffuse into society. You’ve probably seen his bell curve before.

We throw around the terms “early adopter,” middle adopter and late adopter. I’m not sure we remember that the timeline between when an innovator embraces a change, and when a laggard gives in to it is about 6 years.

Rather than wait 6 years for the laggards in our congregations to accept the changes we want to make, maybe we can work toward changes that align with their values. To do that, we must know what our congregation values. Not really the “what,” but the “why.” My Dad didn’t value the “what” of the remote control. He treasured the ability to keep manipulative advertisements from loudly interrupting our TV shows. His “why” was a smooth experience, for TV shows and life in general. Values aren’t things, or events, they are the relationships and experiences that give meaning to a person’s life.

What do you treasure about being part of our congregation?

This isn’t a question we can answer for anyone else. It takes a thoughtful listening process that involves everyone in the congregation. We need to listen for the “why” that is underneath the “what.”

Unless, of course, you’d rather wait six years for the laggards to catch up.

I developed a free resource to support your work to innovate in your congregation. Click the button below to access Leading Change: Theory and Strategy.

Everett Rogers. 2006. The Diffusion of Innovation. Free Press: New York.

Peter Senge. 1990. The Fifth Discipline, The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. Doubleday: New York.

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