Right when I am beginning a new series of posts on Church Leaders as “Chief Learning Officers” of Learning Communities, I read something that may stimulate more “Blogger’s Block.” Yesterday, I read an article on the internet, that I found on a comment somebody made on Facebook. According to the article, just reading it may have made me stupider.
In an Atlantic Monthly article from the summer of 2008 titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholas Carr argues that while the power and convenience of the internet for research (including finding year-old articles like this one) is truly a world-altering technological advance, it doesn’t come without a cost. Technology changes the way our brains work. After awhile of reading online, we start to read differently. We “skim” constantly; we “bounce” regularly. We can’t follow complex arguments as deeply. We “decode” instead of “interpret”. We prefer the pithy over the complex, the novel over the meaningful (and this article didn’t have anything to say about “Twitter”, which even a year ago wasn’t all that big and is, at least momentarily, the next huge thing: “Oprah Tweets!”…or is it?).
While there is much to consider, discuss and ponder here, according to Carr, if we read this online (even at this blog) we likely won’t. We may bookmark, but we rarely come back to it. We may comment on it, but we won’t contemplate it. Let me pull just one thought out of the article and ask you to try to stay with this one a bit…
"In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed."
In my last post, I wrote of the “blessing of blogger’s block”, of spending the better part of three months without putting up a post, because I was well, locked in the “fuzziness of contemplation.” For me, that fuzziness was exactly what I needed, that ambiguity was exactly where I needed to stay and both are what I want to encourage more leaders to embrace as they think of themselves as Chief Learning Officers of a Learning Community.
As I think about my leadership contexts, it is becoming increasingly clear that most of the challenges that we face today in the church are not matters of finding “best practices.” (A topic I’ll take up in another post.)
We face issues and opportunities, threats and prospects that require us to move beyond what we know, produce, and program, find quickly, skim briefly, and launch rapidly to the kinds of “adaptive shifts” that require us to think deeply, consider complexity, converse repeatedly, and implement wisely. In other words, most of what we need to learn to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world, will require us to think slowly and learn differently. (Which, usually means, slowly. As one person told me, “You only learn as fast as you learn.)
And it seems that our technology is beginning to train this crucial learning skill out of us.
Those who know me well, know that I am not a Luddite. I truly appreciate technology. I spent an hour with my mother trying to teach her Facebook so she could keep up with her grandkids.
But one of the ironies of even this post, is that it may be contributing the very thing that keeps us from becoming the leaders our increasingly complex world needs.