“Never stop learning, for when we stop learning, we stop growing”. We have heard this saying infinitely, but hey, isn’t it true?! Learning is that one concept that has uncountable positives and if carried out for adequate purposes, no negatives. While learning new things is great, some of this acquired knowledge could even be counterproductive. And that’s when we need to “unlearn.” Maybe you’ve struggled to drive a stick shift after being accustomed to an automatic. Or attempted to learn Spanish for work after being taught French in school, and ended up spouting “Sprench.” When older knowledge interferes with the brain’s ability to accept new information, learning doesn’t always happen as quickly or easily as we’re often led to believe for it to.
Let’s start from the start. What is unlearning? It’s the process of “deliberately discarding” obsolete, redundant knowledge that no longer applies. When you unlearn something you forget it, put it aside, and you lose knowledge of it.
We quite discern that this is a relatively newer concept but, hold up. We want to help you help yourselves with this newly found growth hack.
Alvin Toffler, a futurist and philosopher said-
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Unlearning is critical because the circumstances in which an employee learned something the first time might differ from where they are now. As we move forward in life, we start looking at the same things in new lights. We may become more receptive to knowledge and more disciplined while learning.
We know exactly what you’re wondering- Where do I start, what do I unlearn?
To know what to unlearn, you need to first introspect your thoughts, beliefs, and your habits
1. Foster a sense of willingness- A leader should never demand compliance. People are more co-operative in the unlearning process if they are willing participants. To make it easier, you can role model the new behaviour. Think of something like energy saving behaviours – you may need to first raise awareness of the bad habits to be unlearned e.g. switching off your PC if you leave your office for say over an hour. But you could make this easier to do by buying new PCs or laptops with energy savings settings. Furthermore, you can involve people by asking them for ideas on how they save on energy bills at home and so on; take all the help you can get (always)!
2. Pursue the unfamiliar Everybody wants to view the new with an eye for the old. The problem is that this is self-limiting. In order to grasp new ideas and let them take hold, you need to pursue the things that are unfamiliar and get to know them. Consider the new release of Windows 10. How many people jumped on this right away? How many decided to wait until it felt comfortable? How quickly do you, honestly, fall in line with newer items, ideas? When unlearning, you have to let go of the familiar so you open your mind to the unfamiliar.
3. Change the location Try moving away from the location where you learned it. New surroundings can help you notice new things. This is a bit of psychological manipulation.
4. Learn from your opposite When employees are surrounded by like-mind people, their ability to unlearn is tampered with. When teamed with a business professional from a varied background, employees are better able to look at things from a fresher viewpoint. Even if all the members of a team are having the same profession, that’s fine. Example- a team of graphic designers in a company all now have similar job profiles, although they have myriad perspectives of design, different ways of using the same tools on softwares, etc. Look and grasp!
5. Foster curiosity Consider a child’s capacity for learning. Help your employees see the unlearning from a child’s view. Keep in mind- a child is usually open to discovering new approaches and techniques without much hesitation. They don’t have the same ‘adult baggage’ of fear or of looking stupid. Ask yourself: What would you do today if you weren’t afraid? A child learns by investigating new situations through trial and error. The same methodology translates to the process of unlearning and then re-learning something new.
6. Set goals- First, be sure the goals set during the unlearning process are practically attainable. Make the steps clear so employees can check them off their list. For example, if you are introducing energy saving measures, you might kick off the unlearning with a campaign. You could set some initial easy targets e.g. 1% savings in first month, with a leader board for each area to see where people are against target. You first goal, could be: By setting small goals like this, your transition will be easier. You might have some ‘energy champions’ spend a few minutes each day, giving out gentle reminders for that 1st week. This encourages the unlearning and learning process while making it easier for employees to do.
7. Continuously support and check-in Unlearning may be as difficult for the company as it is for individual employee. To ensure a smooth transition, encourage colleagues to help each other out. Consider creating a support team to handle the unlearning process.General POV-