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Why the problem with learning is unlearning

  • By faber
  • November 15, 2016

Learning is a continuous process. Each day, comes up with a new learning experience. Well, it does not just hold true for individuals but it is also applicable for organizations. In this digital era, organizations strive to continuous learning. But learning becomes tough due to the difficulty of unlearning things. Learning involves acquiring new skills in addition to the existing skills. While, unlearning refers to the ability to step out of the already created and followed mental block to accept and follow the new process.

The same is the case with organizations. Organizations have been following the traditional ways and the old mental block or model of thinking sustains. As rightly said by Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need to unlearn obsolete practices and explore alternative models.

The process of unlearning has 3 parts:

Recognition about the ineffectiveness of the old mental model or paradigm

This is the foremost method to be adopted for unlearning. We need to consider and understand the ineffectiveness of the old mental paradigm which is the greatest challenge. It becomes very difficult to accept that that the old model has become obsolete and irrelevant as we already make it a habit to use this old paradigm, unconsciously to solve our problems.

Look out for a better way or a new model

Once, we understand the ineffectiveness of the existing model, we should start looking for a new model and should gradually accept it. With the evolution of new problems, there arises new ways of solving it too. This adoption of new model gradually takes over the old and grows to be more beneficial in due course for organizations and individuals both.

Instill the new mental habits

The last but not the least step is to embed the newly developed mental habits. The tendency will be to fall back into the old way of thinking and therefore the old way of doing. For example, when you are talking about your customers, catch yourself when you call them “consumers” — this corresponds to a transactional mindset. The shift in language helps to reinforce the shift in mindset.

Thus, practicing unlearning will make it quicker to adapt and follow it. The place to start is by unlearning how we think about learning. Just as we keep on evolving so does our habits, because ultimately we keep on learning something new. The problem created by a particular set of thinking is not capable enough of solving the same problem. So your thinking and learning process should be altered accordingly, based on the situation. The best part is that practicing unlearning will make it easier and quicker to oscillate as your brain adapts.

Written By: Faber Ramya Pillai