I'm sure there have been threads devoted to unlearning in the past, but I
wanted to start one now.
I'd like to suggest that there is one vital precondition to learning --
and that is unlearning.Learning is natural and relatively easy-when we
don't think we already have the answers. The biggest barrier to innovation
and change is not our resistence to learning something new, but the
difficulty of unlearning what we currently think is "the truth."
I like the way John Seely Brown, the chief scientist of Xerox Corp., puts
it: "The more success you achieve-either as an individual or as an
organization-the more difficult it is to change. All of the learning that
led to one kind of success becomes implicitly coded and works against your
ability to unlearn. The challenge then becomes how to uncover those deeply
In workshops I use the following little exercise to make this point real:
answer these questions. What do you ask a lot of when you don't know how
to do something? ... [Questions.] What happens to the questions when you
discover how to do it? ... [They stop.] How can you learn a better way to
do something if you think you already know the right way to do it? ...
When we learn something we hold it as a belief, which is a statement about
reality that we think is "the truth." Our beliefs, in turn, determine what
we do, influence what we think and feel, and shape what we perceive. It is
natural for us to act consistently with our beliefs. It is difficult, if
not impossible, for us to act inconsistently with our beliefs over the
What appears to be widespread resistence to change is nothing more than
people acting consistently with their beliefs. Imagine that you manage
service technicians, whose job it is to install, fix, and maintain
equipment. They have done this for many years and they are proud of the
quality of the work they do. Now, suddenly, you call them in and tell them
that you want them to spend more time talking to customers, answering
their questions, and creating a relationship. You warn them that the
company's survival is dependent on the partnership they create with
customers. Then they go back to work. Do you really expect them to
radically change their behavior when they get to the job site? ... Of
course not. Most of them will continue to install, fix, and maintain the
equipment and ignore the customers.
Most people would clain that this is evidence that people resist change,
that they resist doing something new.
I disagree. People don't resist change, learning, or doing something new.
They resist doing what they think is wrong. If service technicians think
that installing, fixing, and maintaining is the right thing for them to
do, they would experience spending more time with customers as something
Now imagine that they really changed their belief about themselves to
being a "customer satisfier." Assume there is not merely a change in their
title, but they really believed the essence of their job was to satisfy
customers. In such a case creating a partnership with customers would be
natural and effortless-just as installing, fixing, and maintaining is
natural and effortless for service technicians.
Eliminating long-held beliefs-i.e., unlearning-is not really difficult.
The Decision MakerŪ Institute has developed several tools, especially the
Decision MakerŪ Process-Changed Environment, that are designed to assist
people and organizations to quickly and permanently eliminate long-held
beliefs. They are breakthrough tools for unlearning. Once you empty the
mind of "right answers," it becomes open to learning. When the beliefs are
gone, change and learning become easy and natural.
To find out about this process, click here:
Learning can be both cognitive (in the form of beliefs) and emotional (inh
the form of conditioned feelings andemotions). We have been successful in
helping people unlearn both types. When the beliefs and the conditioned
feelings/emotions are gone, people are open to change, innovation, and new
For information about the Decision Maker(R) Institute or
Re-create Your Life: Transforming Yourself and Your World
contact: email@example.com or visit www.decisionmaker.com
"Morty Lefkoe" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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