The following is a description of an event attended by Irwin Kula, Clal’s president, and a meeting that resulted with Clayton Christensen of the founder of the theory of disruptive innovation.

On Wednesday October 10th I attended a dinner celebrating the impact of disruptive innovation and the 10th anniversary of the Christensen Institute. The next day I had the opportunity to visit with Professor Clayton Christensen the founder of the theory of disruptive innovation at Harvard Business School. Disruption is happening in every domain – retail, taxis, hotels, entertainment, education, and health and so we shouldn’t be surprised to see disruption happening in the religious sector.

The power of a profound theory like disruptive innovation is its ability to facilitate and even expedite positive social change. As the business of religion gets disrupted and the existing institutional business models in religion weaken – 7-10,000 houses of worship closed in the United States for the tenth year in a row and the fastest growing religious demographic is “None” – we shouldn’t be surprised that new religious and spiritual products, services, and delivery systems are emerging to get the jobs done that religion historically got done. While Professor Christensen has not applied his theory to this sector there is important research to be done in this area to help religious leadership and policy makers address the most pressing issues of creating better people, better lives, and a better world.

To give an example of just one of the challenges in the religion sector: we are witnessing an emergence of a start-up culture of new religious organizations that offer faith rooted experiences – like pop-up High Holiday services – that are cheaper, more accessible and good enough to get the job done that have disrupted legacy institutions which have a high cost and high barriers of entry. By applying this theory we can better understand how this phenomenon works and begin to explore how one might amplify this startup culture as well as how we might help legacy institutions innovate on the inside – addressing the innovator’s dilemma.

This could result in new relationships between start-up communities that have very limited resources but are engaging non-consumers of the existing religious products and services and legacy institutions that have assets but decreasing number of users. As Clay and I joked, I am his advance research team in Disruptive Spiritual Innovation.