Church AV Tech Needs Innovation More Than Invention

Church AV needs are wide and varied, but one of thing they all have in common when it comes to technology: Church AV tech needs a greater focus on innovation than new inventions.

Innovation Over Invention

Perhaps my favorite example of a firm that gets innovation and obsesses over it is IDEO, a firm that has helped companies innovate more than invent. They’ve famously helped many of the world’s most successful companies innovate. Examples include the first inexpensively produced computer mouse, the first laptop computers, and even a kid’s toothbrush. IDEO is rooted in design thinking and solving problems most of us don’t even know we had… right up until we realize we now can’t live without them.

Innovation is the key driver for solving the consistent pain points for clients and the house of worship market is no exception. In fact, because churches are in a never-ending cycle of weekend services, innovation is perhaps the greatest need they have in order to leverage technologies, systems and processes which are scalable, consistent and dependable, due in no small part of the need to staff heavily with volunteers.

What strikes me most about IDEO is that they’re not an invention firm, but an innovation firm.

I think innovation is the art and science of taking something that exists and improving on it in a significant way.

This, of course, has huge implications for local churches, who have a timeless message which never changes, but innumerable methods for applying that message to cultural change all of the time. Where I think churches trip up along this journey is when traditions become more important than continual improvement.

Traditions Begin As Personal Preferences

You and I have preferences. We all do. Some of these preferences have meaning to us, so we create consistent patterns around them. Before you know it, we’ve told others how to operate within our preferences. One step removed from us, what was once a preference is now a tradition.

I think traditions are a lot like money: They’re neither good nor bad — it’s all about how you approach it. If a tradition gets in the way of growing people, it’s a clear sign that the tradition has to change or go. And so it goes with technology, too; when the tradition of doing something a certain way or not upgrading technology because change is required, tradition kills innovation.

It is my personal experience and opinion that the main reason main older (mainline) churches are failing and dying is because they’re holding onto denominational or local traditions at the expense of connecting culturally with their communities. Cultural relevance means looking objectively at traditions which have been prioritized instead of reaching new people.

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Traditions are powerful and can be helpful — as long as they follow the heart of serving people and not merely the letter of the law. I do not believe traditions are inherently bad, but the very nature of perpetuating traditions eschews innovation.

Innovation Creates Demand

Innovation drives demand. This is one of the most consistent findings in macroeconomics, and it’s been true for millenia. In fact, economists have figured out that about half — 50 percent! — of U.S. annual GDP growth is attributed to increases in innovation.

We live in a time when change is constant and communication happens in real-time. At what point can a tradition offer itself on the altar and die to facilitate needed innovation? Traditions in manufacturing. Traditions in systems design for churches. Traditions in sales techniques for a buyer who is significantly younger and savvier technically? Traditions in marketing for flowery, religious language instead of distraction-free, people-oriented services?

The future of church AV technology is in need of greater automation, deeper levels of support and lower barrier-to-entry for volunteer operators. Surely the AV industry can rise to these challenges — which are present in a number of vertical markets.

Specifically, areas where churches need innovation for AV technology:

  • Volunteer-centric training
  • UI/UX for operation by non-technical staff (volunteers) — this would help across EVERY vertical market.
  • Connectivity — no more unsecure/non-locking connectors, ever
  • Non-proprietary system controls
  • Total Cost of Ownership shown per year and over the expected lifespan of the product — this would benefit greatly from showing amortization to help justify expenses.

Our culture is constantly moving forward due to innovations from vendors across the spectrum. The AV industry as a whole needs to address and replace traditional thinking when it comes to technology in the house of worship (and other) market with innovative design thinking.

With companies like IDEO as the example, why shouldn’t the AV industry focus on innovation over invention when it comes to both the design of products and the implementation of technology within a vertical market? Inventions are still valuable, but innovation will help advance the users of technology faster than the replacement of one technology over another.

What say you? Share your views and links in the comments below.