Culture Leadership

How Do We Learn? How Should We Lead?

If web 2.0 has taught us anything, it’s that there are no limits to the amount of information out there. I hear 13 hours of video are uploaded onto every minute, 346 million people around the world regularly read blogs, and 900,000 new blog posts surface each hour. (Thanks, Kelly.) More information doesn’t necessarily make us smarter (take the current US banking/credit/economic crises for example) but it can intoxicate. The feed excites us temporarily until the next 140 character status update arrives. Then we move on. But how do we learn?

It’s hard to keep up. For four years I lived in an remote East Asian village of 2 million where the closest English-language newspaper was an overnight train ride away. That’s when my daily news diet shifted to VOA radio and web 1.0 news sites funneled through a VPN. That was ten years or five centuries ago. Now I read book summaries online, frequently on other people’s blogs, for free. This morning I scanned multiple RSS feeds in Google Reader and MyYahoo, for free. Then I loaded my Morning Coffee into Firefox to get up to speed on world news from BBC, CNN, Stratfor and the NY Times. This process requires between 15-25 minutes depending on how many editorials I read. It’s far more efficient than parking in front of a half-hour televised CNN update and waiting through the commericials, plus I can forward meaningful links to others. This week I’ve been intently following the Somalia pirate story and praying for my friends in Ethiopia who are seeking to send Christian students on prayer/mission trips into Somalia.

Printed news is dying. Fewer and fewer people under 30 read a daily printed newspaper. One recent study reveals that printing costs the NY Times twice as much as simply sending every subscriber a Kindle. Journalists have a few more years to decide whether they are in the printed paper business or the journalism business, then make adjustments. Ann and I take the printed Orlando Sentinel newspaper solely for the crossword and the coupons which pay for the recently doubled subscription price. (Today’s Sentinel had a grand total of 43 column inches devoted to world news – the average page contains about 100 column-inches.) Neither of my very globally-aware children (ages 16 and 19) read the printed paper – they get almost all of their news online. We shop on Craigslist and Google the solutions to most of our home-renovation challenges.

But we digress…

Learning takes place when we figure out a way to convert data into knowledge (via filtered, thoughtful analysis) and knowledge into wisdom (applied skill in living). As followers of Jesus we’re called to take it one more step – converting wisdom into love. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

The great companies, churches and organizations today are the ones who have empowered their people to address increasingly complex challenges by failing fast, learning fast and sharing the wealth. These are places people love to work or serve. A sense of calling replaces the idea of a career as people get to do what they love. Work becomes more like play when we’re surrounded by an expanding network of friends with a clear mission to go after together. Humility supplants hubris. Solutions become findable.

What would it take for CCC to remain one of the best avenues in the world for passionate, talented, risk-taking world-changers to live out their God-given calling?

I believe we’ll need to keep shaping and reshaping our CCC culture in these final two areas:

4. Learning Environment
The world is constantly changing. What was effective last year may not be effective next year. We must be able to rapidly respond to those God-given opportunities to love our neighbors as ourselves and offer the love of Christ, on any scale- local or global. We need leaders with the spirit of Jonathan and his armor bearer who will take the initiative to “….go up and see what the Lord might do for us.”

We – you and me – must create an atmosphere where people are free to try new ideas and to adapt to changing local, regional or global realities. This learning environment means that

a. Everyone is energetically pursuing effectiveness, with the freedom to acknowledge what is not working and to seek new wineskins. Our sincere intention is to maximize our fruitfulness, so that “everyone knows someone….”

b. We will wrestle with the healthy tension between quality and quantity.

c. We establish channels of learning across countries, regions and the world to share best practices and to learn from each other.

d. We actively offer coaching and stretching assignments to individuals and teams.

5. Shared Leadership
To pursue even our part of movements everywhere, we must share the responsibility for the work. Leadership cannot be left to a few; it must be entrusted to others. The extent of “everywhere” requires an expanding leadership base. Shared leadership means that we execute the mission through effective ministry teams at every level.

a. Leadership teams are committed to a common goal, fully empowered to act within defined boundaries, focused on results, and growing in their effectiveness together.

b. Each team has a designated leader, and team members are clear about their roles. They fulfill their individual responsibilities, recognize their need for one another, demonstrate cooperation, and hold each other accountable to their goals.

c. Each member prioritizes the mission of the team first, and his strategic focus second.

d. To function together effectively on teams, we must be leaders who serve others with grace and humility. Rather than telling people what to do, we ask, “how can we help you accomplish what God has put on your heart?” This servant posture is also expressed in sharing and offering access to needed information. It is demonstrated as we allocate our people, money and other assistance toward local effectiveness.

What’s one recent experience that either supports or undermines this type of culture?

What do you think CCC should look like?

Click here for a two-page summary of all five culture change elements.

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at

5 replies on “How Do We Learn? How Should We Lead?”

One element that undermines a learning environment is a culture that refused to acknowledge failure. When you rarely hear a leader publicly state that something was a failure you know it won’t be easy for anyone to risk failure. I think the leaders fear demotivating the people responsible for the failed project but may not realize the real damage that occurs. Rather than learning, leaders who failed get marginalized.

Instead it would be good to hear leaders name something as a failure and then follow it up with what was learned and how things will be different going forward.

I speak as a guilty party.

Thanks Jerry. I agree. In my experience I have found that followers do not expect their leaders to be perfect, but they do expect them to be honest.

er.. I thought I live in the CITY of 2 million. anyway, you can buy an English newspaper easily now, if you really need to.

Great stuff. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog – always terrific insights on reaching college students for Christ.

One thing I find myself doing is putting off reading your blog until I have longer to think and process. FWIW, It might be helpful for people like me with short attention span/young kids to break your posts into shorter nuggets (like Godin).

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and for leading us well.

Tim Casteel
CD -University of Arkansas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.