Creativity, Innovation & Re-Organization

I was recently in a meeting when someone used the term “entrepreneurial” to describe what they’ve seen taking place at Winebrenner over the past year or so. I received this as an incredible compliment and affirmation of the ways in which our faculty, staff, and administration have responded to the unique challenges of 2020 and 2021.

Often, when we think about entrepreneurs we think about new tech startups or someone who built a business from the ground up. While Winebrenner has been around since 1942, our current environment reflects the definition used by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup where he defines a startup as an organization “designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” If you’ve been paying any attention to the climate within higher education in North America you are well aware that we’ve been living in conditions of extreme uncertainty for many years.

How we respond within these environments of extreme uncertainty is the focus of this post. As a way to wrap up this brief series on creativity and innovation, I want to re-share the conclusion I wrote last October when exploring God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner: Re-organizing for Educational Programs & Course Development (you can read the full post by clicking here):

As a conclusion, rethinking and reorganizing is not a result of anyone doing anything wrong.  As evidenced by the rhythm of this series, I have been demonstrating that organizations need to organize and re-organize around mission and strategy.  I continue to affirm and simultaneously rethink a faculty member’s role within this emerging system of theological education.

Prior to arriving at Winebrenner, I was a tenured faculty member at a university in Pennsylvania. When I first arrived at the school in 2008, there wasn’t great clarity related to mission and strategy. After a transition in presidential leadership, the school gained a much greater level of focus and the corresponding mission and strategy became much clearer. This is not to say the previous president was unfocused, just that the alignment was much stronger with the new administration. By the time I left in 2015 to come to Winebrenner Seminary, there was a much greater sense of who was an “insider” and who was an “outsider” within the university. In this context, “insider” doesn’t equate to “better” nor does “outsider” equate to “worse.”

An individual’s “fit” within an organization is directly tied to how he or she is situated within the overall organizational context.  What was interesting about my previous school is that as the organizational mission and strategy was clarified, it shifted how employees fit within the overall structure. Those who found increased meaning in the emerging structure grew in their sense of being an insider, while those who become unsettled in the direction took on the feeling of being an outsider.

Returning to Winebrenner…managing this rhythm of organizing and reorganizing around mission and strategy is one of the most challenging aspects of leading a creative organization. As our external circumstances continue to shift and change, our organization must also shift and rebalance in order to navigate such environments. A commitment to creativity and innovation requires an ongoing commitment to organize and reorganize around mission and strategy.

– Dr. Brent C. Sleasman, President
– Image by myrfa on Pixabay, accessed via Adobe Spark

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