Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Book Review: The Three Box Solution


The Three Box Solution, by ViJay Govindarajan. Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.
By Rev. Dr. Joseph Harris

Occasionally you run across a book that is not specifically written for the church but whose principles and context can be applied to the church. I have read such a book by Vijay Govindarajan called The Three Box Solution – A Strategy for Leading Innovation.

As with many business-focused books, you have to think creatively on how this could apply to the church. Not every business-centered principle is appropriate for or applicable to faith communities. However, Professor Govindarajan, a Coxe Distinguished Professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, is one of the leading experts on strategy and innovation.

With many church growth and renewal experts stating the need for the church today to become more strategic in its planning and more innovative in its ministries, this book contains principles and a process that could help any church, religious organization, institution or committee in its efforts to reach beyond its walls into the larger world.

This book is practical enough to help most organizations balance competing activities while imagining and building new ones. The premise of the book: Keep your current operations that are effective and healthy; cut your losses on lagging or under-performing/no-longer-relevant operations, programs or ministries; and innovate for the future using separate groups and management principles.

The model is very compelling because it addresses three “wicked” and competing challenges leaders are often confronted by when leading innovation: managing the present, selectively forgetting the past, and creating the future.

If your church, organization or committee needs to stop doing what it’s already done and branch out in new and innovative ways, this is a book for you to read. This book can help in the development of long-term strategies and short-term solutions that could help you to build a preferred future.

The Three Box Solution is significantly relevant for innovation in the organizational context as well as personal context. The principles outlined by Govindarajan can be applied whether you are a strategist or operationalist, an executive or a manager, a Pastor or Board Chair, expert or generalist, working for profit or not for profit. This book provides easy to understand and practical tools for organizations stuck in the past or flying high, using tools adopted by GE, IBM, Mahindra & Mahindra and religious institutions.

Not everything in this book will be relevant for every situation. But there are enough real-life examples for most readers to glean new insights, be reminded of things they may have forgotten and become encouraged about the possibilities ahead. This is an important, easy-to-read book for those looking at long term planning and strategies as well as creative ways of reaching out to new people groups.

The Contact will feature book reviews to encourage innovation in ministry and promote leadership development. We invite church and ministry leaders to submit their book review to editor@okumc.org.


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