If we don't learn, we'll be lost

If we don't learn, we'll be lost

Last month, the conference office changed its Internet service provider. We have experienced some problems in making this switch. However, we believe these problems will work themselves out, and the change will be an improvement for us.

One of our problems is electronic junk mail, better known as “spam.” Our staff Internet Technologist assures us the spam will eventually stop. Our equipment, he said, is “learning” how to do its job. It will take time for our computers to learn to differentiate between junk mail and legitimate mail.

When I was a teenager, “Lost in Space” was one of my favorite TV shows. Do you remember it? There was a robot on the show with the ability to sense danger, who was always warning the boy star, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”

Well, here we are many years later, and our Internet service provider has artificial intelligence like that of Will Robinson’s robot. What is especially intriguing is our instrument is capable of “learning” how to serve us better. When our IT person explained that our equipment has the capacity to learn, I was reminded of how far we have advanced. We are surrounded by technology that improves quality of life. My cell phone has learned to recognize my voice. We have software that will learn the sound of our voices and key in the words we speak.

The scientists who invent these devices understand the need to have machines that can learn, to avoid becoming obsolete. The United Methodist Church and its leaders must have the same capabilities of these wonder machines. We must be people who are ever learning – adding new information to our databases so that we can serve our present age. The “learning leader” receives new information and processes it in a way to be effective in this changing world.

The following statement is from the “Harvard Business Review On Finding and Keeping the Best People,” by Peter Cappelli and Ibarra Hermina:

Virtually everyone agrees that the old covenant between employer and employee – under which companies offered at least a measure of job security in exchange for adequate performance and some exhibition of loyalty – is dead. Some management thinkers argue that instead of the traditional focus on employment, the focus should now be on employability ... The answer is a new covenant under which the ... company’s responsibility to provide employees with the tools, the open environment, and the opportunities for assessing and developing their skills. It is the employee’s responsibility to manage his or her own career and to show some commitment to the company’s purpose and community for as long as he or she works there. The result is a group of self-reliant workers – or a career resilient workforce – and a company that can thrive in an era in which the skills needed to remain competitive are constantly changing.

I believe this speaks to the leadership challenges faced by our church today. We must work to become “learning leaders” and develop ourselves into a resilient workforce. According to Cappelli and Hermina, “The company that embraces career resilience will have a huge strategic advantage. By encouraging people to grow, to change, and to learn, it will do those things better itself.”