Theknowledgecore's Blog

Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

Can you unlearn to learn…?


…or can you learn to unlearn?

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  For my sake, I hope they are wrong… this week’s blog is a pause for reflection; there’s no big argument, just an observation…

In today’s economic environment, perhaps now more than ever, the ability to adapt, to become dynamic, is the key to success.  It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the individual or the organisation; it’s all about adaptability – simple!

To do this we need to learn to forget, to put the past in its place.  Don’t get me wrong, knowledge needs to be activated to bring about knowing and it needs to be applied in multiple settings, or repeated consistently, over a period of time to bring about expertise and there is a lot there that needs to be remembered.  But what about the bad habits and the negative knowledge that basks on a festering inertia, undermining our ability to effectively contribute.  I would hesitate a guess and say that it exists in all of us.  However, with some, the dogmatic few, it consumes their judgement and impacts the dynamic of the group and sometimes even the organisation; at what cost to the individual and the organisation?

Problem solving is a key tool in developing dynamic capability.  The whole reason we get together to solve problems is that a solution does not currently exist – again, simple.  This means that you have to be prepared to forego personal bias for the greater good.  What differentiates the excellent performer from the rest seems to be the judgement that allows them to distil the good from the bad; that allows them to sift through their experiences, discard what doesn’t work, combine what does with that of others and develop workable solutions.  If only we could teach that judgement, if only we could recognise the challenge within ourselves, become more aware, how much more valuable would we become?

It’s more than that though.  Negative knowledge plagues organisations.  Stories can be so powerful and so good, but they can also destroy unless we are willing to unlearn what we are told.  Problem-solving as a group, take Action Learning sets as an example, relies on trust and the group dynamic. How many people are capable of unlearning the belief they have in stories that circulate the water cooler; you know, the ones that grow arms and legs and pollute your view of the individual to the point where you just can’t talk to them without it tickling the back of your mind?


Seems like such a simple thing, learning and unlearning. So why does it seem to take a lifetime to master?

So, what do you think?

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2011 by in Organisational knowledge and learning processes and tagged .
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