The Old in the New

The core of innovation is not creating something new—it’s looking at old resources in new ways.
The calamity of war in the Middle East, the ever-present threat of nuclear weapons development and international terrorism, escalating oil prices, looming economic crisis, famine in Africa, the haunting shadow of natural disasters, globalization, disease, ethnic and religious clashes, pollution, depletion of the ozone layer, child abuse, political unrest and inequitable distribution of wealth and resources—these are only a few of the complex challenges facing our world today.

It amuses me that anyone in their right mind would vie for a position of leadership in this global environment of stress and distress. And yet it is in times of such great crisis that the need for competent, effective and creative leadership is needed the most.

Leaders today must respond in ways that leaders of past generations did not have to because, as one writer describes it, "The world is flat." In other words, global actions have local consequences. The leader must be able to effectively respond to challenges that occur at the speed of time, thought and action—not only multi-tasking but multi-decision-making.

That's where innovation comes in.

There is a saying, "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you will keep getting what you've been getting." In other words, if you want something different, you have to do something different. The challenges facing today's leaders defy the traditional old-school management and leadership-training programs that have produced our present cadre of leaders.

When we think of something new, we generally believe it to be something that has never been in use before. However, it may surprise you that in reality there is nothing new under the sun. The concept of "new" is a perception not a reality. "New" is the description we give something that has been innovated. In fact, everything new is simply a combination of old things in new ways. Everything God created is still here.

For instance, a new pair of shoes is actually an old cow; a wool dress or suit is an old sheep; a new car is the combination of iron ore, tin, oil byproducts and sand—all old products derived from the earth. In essence, new is the old arranged in new ways. This is the heart of true creativity—the ability to continue to combine the old in new ways.

True innovative leadership is the capacity to capture a vision of new combinations of the old in more productive and positive ways for the benefit of mankind and creation. True leadership is innovation manifested for the benefit of many. Leadership is innovation in practice and expresses itself in finding untested ways to address unexpected challenges.

This church leader of today is not different from the political or educational leader as the challenges facing ministries are also new and uncharted. The impact of globalization, the Internet, cable television, travel, communication and the integration of culture, ethnic groups and moral issues will continue to test the limits of the spiritual leader. Many of the skills the spiritual leader learned in his or her preparation for ministry are not adequate to effectively face the challenges of today's ministries.

From Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, the Wright brothers and Steve Jobs to Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, innovative leaders take old products and combine them in news ways to create new products for the betterment of humanity. Everything you need to accomplish your dream is present now. But you must think about old things in new ways.

Innovation is capacity to think beyond the known, defy the norm, and believe in one's abilities to solve new problems with new combinations of resources, to initiate solutions, place demand on potential, test the creativity of your team, believe in your ability to solve problems, look at what you have, study what you have, see the potential of resources, see beyond the norm, understand the true nature of resources and act on faith.

Innovative leaders are never afraid to challenge their past successes or break tradition, to change their minds and open new doors of possibilities and opportunities, to take paths never before trod by their contemporaries and embrace the opportunity to try new ways, bury old habits, and even become a new person. I challenge you to stretch your thinking and stir up your innovative capacity. Force yourself to look at old resources and situations in new ways and make a difference in your world and instead of reading history, make it. You have the Spirit of innovation, the Holy Spirit, who gives you the leadership edge by the capacity to tap into the endless innovative possibilities of Jehovah your Father. Go ahead and innovate.

Myles Munroe is the founder, president and senior pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries International. He is also author of numerous books, including The Spirit of Leadership. He hosts leadership summits in August and November. For more information, visit

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