Catching up on some reading in the area of innovation and education, one link led me to another, and I came across Steve Ballmer's recent email to Microsoft employees announcing "a far-reaching realignment of the company that will enable us to innovate with greater speed, efficiency and capability in a fast changing world."
Nice enough, I thought. Bold. Ambitious. And so I continued on, and a few paragraphs later read that "[t]he evangelism and business development team will drive partners across our . . ."
Wait. Evangelism? At Microsoft?
O me of little faith. Ballmer's email revealed that Microsoft has a "Business Development and Evangelism Group." According to Ballmer, that group will "focus on key partnerships especially our innovation partners . . . and our broad work on evangelism and developer outreach."
Intrigued by this appropriation of Christian language, I did a little searching and found that the use of "evangelism" is more common and has a far longer history than I would have imagined. This 2011 Forbes article discusses the work of IBM's "Vice President of Social Business Evangelism." I also found a paper published in 2006 by Growth Resources, Inc., with the title, "Technology Evangelists: A Leadership Survey." In that article, Frederic Lucas-Conwell, Ph.D, writes that a "technology evangelist serves as an ambassador of organizational technologies, interacting with prospects, partners, users, producers and other members of the organization." According to Lucas-Conwell,
Technology evangelism requires a commitment to the product or service being sold, as well as to the company and its management. A technology evangelist is attached to a cause that embodies a vision, makes people feel better, generates impressive effects, initiates selfless actions, and polarizes people to act positively.