Sunday, November 16, 2014

Forbes on Pope Francis

“When it comes to innovation this guy is pretty epic”

Forbes magazine  makes note of two awards the pontiff received last spring, including the “Adam Smith Prize” from the Harvard Business Review and “Book of the Year” from Forbes for his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).

When was the last time a religious book took top honors from an American business magazine?

In Forbes current edition, two authors explain the pope’s strengths as an innovator and CEO.

Every CEO is an evangelizer. So those struggling with how to deal with the pressures of disruption would do well to closely follow Pope Francis. His first bit of sage advice for every CEO is: “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!”

Last April, Pope Francis received two awards at the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards (TDIA). He was honored in absentia with the Adam Smith Prize, presented by the Harvard Business Review and with our Book of the Year for his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel). Pope Francis? Adam Smith? Disruptive Innovator? Really?

At first blush this might seem like a bit of stretch but our guiding light, Clay Christensen, and HBR editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius felt the Pope was an inspired choice and agreed to sign our letter to the Pope informing him of these recognitions. The recently concluded synod on non-traditional families and the Church simply has reinforced our earlier view that when it comes to innovation this guy is pretty epic.

Think about what the Pope has done to transform a 2,000 year old brand—a really BIG business with issues. Like any incumbent CEO the Pope has had to confront a raft of challenges such as embattled business models, shrinking margins, loss of market share, attracting and retaining personnel and the crush of legacy systems.

In the first six months of his Papacy, Francis squarely addressed the first critical question any CEO needs to ask about her company: What are the “jobs to get done?” He decisively articulated the job of the Church–serving society’s most vulnerable. In an unusually candid self-critique the Pope shifted the Church’s culture from, in his words one of “institutional self-preservation” back to its core mission. In the parlance of disruptive innovation theory Francis focused on the products and services not only from the point of view of the decreasing number of existing consumers of Catholicism, particularly in the West, but also the much larger market of non-consumers—the non-practicing Catholics and non-Catholics. Predictably this disruption has created both excitement and energy as well as anxiety and resistance from incumbent management and conservative laity.