Improving Your Cultural Intelligence


I just got sucked into the rabbit hole of Twitter. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure. You mindlessly open the app, start scrolling and suddenly you look up and realize a half an hour has gone by. I saw hundreds of Tweets during that time—dozens of links to articles I could have read, to stats I didn’t know, to quotes meant to inspire or challenge. And I was reminded of the difficulty we human beings experience trying to keep up with important trends, without being overwhelmed by it all. We live in a period of human history—I’d say over the last century—of unprecedented technological change. What makes it all the more challenging is that there is so much information about those trends available to us.

I get the privilege of owning a research company, so trends are part of my business. They are an element of my life calling, since one of my passions is to provide leaders with access to the right knowledge at the right time, to make the right decision.

But it struck me today that trend watching has become something almost everyone does—and must do—in order to live effective lives. Trend watching has become democratized. I bet you do more trend watching in your life than you even realize.

How do you keep up on trends? In addition my research day job (and Twitter, of course), here are a few reflections about what I do:

I try to read broadly from various media sources (books, magazines, radio, newspapers, Internet and television). I have to admit that my television and newspaper consumption is much lower than it was five years ago.

I also try to follow about 30 different organizations and groups that conduct research and cultural analysis. However, I limit my use of these sources because I want Barna Group and my mind to explore fresh new insights. In other words, I want to stay informed, without simply parroting what others are saying.

In recent years, I have developed some meaningful friendships with some leading scholars and thinkers — individuals I believe are helping to navigate the change. These friendships have been invaluable to me.

And, I try to take mental and physical rest seriously. I’ve learned that keeping up with the latest fads and trends is exhausting. It can be depleting without being renewed with real rest and diverting hobbies.

Finally, I think the most important aspect of trend watching, for me personally, is study and meditation of the Bible. As our team of researchers and writers examines new realities, it is helpful to stay grounded in the unchanging revelation of God. I have found that today’s culture — while very different from the context of the Bible’s writers — can be explained more clearly in light of what Scripture has to say. Sometimes in our fascination with what’s next, we miss timeless truths.

What works for you? In what ways are you committed to becoming a better trend watcher in 2015 and beyond?

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