Book Write-Up: Institutional Intelligence

Gordon T. Smith.  Institutional Intelligence: How to Build an Effective Organization.  IVP Academic, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Institutional Intelligence is about how to run an institution.  Such institutions include non-profits and churches, but author Gordon T. Smith focuses largely on Christian academia, since that is where he is especially experienced.  Smith discusses the importance of having a clear mission for the institution, listening to one’s board, taking into consideration the interests of the stakeholders, and having a budget that is not only balanced but also accomplishes something.  He offers advice on the type of people to hire, how to raise money, things to consider when merging with another institution, and how to design the building such that it conveys a welcoming and spiritually-appropriate message.

At times, Smith comments on Christian spirituality, since his focus is on Christian institutions.  He talks about how God is the provider, yet institutions are still called to be good stewards.  He makes an interesting point about chapels and how they should not be comfortable and nostalgic but should, in some manner, acknowledge the brokenness of the world.  Smith states that working under authority and with people has spiritual value, in that it trains people for Christian discipleship.  And, because Smith is clear that institutions are generally not places of unconditional love, he gives readers tips about the proper attitude to have in responding to that: how they can avoid bitterness and respond appropriately to praise.

A lot of the book seemed to be common sense, but there are readers who may benefit from Smith’s articulation of the issues: they may wonder what exactly they should be considering, and Smith tells them.  Smith focuses a great deal on the type of attitude that leaders of institutions should have, but he occasionally provides practical advice about what they should actually do.  The book would have been better had it had more practical advice.  Moreover, the book was rather dry, and stories would have enhanced the book by making it more relatable and entertaining, while illustrating the principles that Smith was discussing.

The book would have also been better had it had a more pastoral tone.  The section on whom to hire makes sense, but it can make a person feel as if he or she needs to be perfect to work for an institution (not that Smith says that).  Of course, workers in general are expected to perform at a quality level, but Smith perhaps should have offered advice to potential workers about how they can prepare themselves for that.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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