Unlearning LO24221

From: Morty Lefkoe (morty@decisionmaker.com)
Date: 03/21/00

Replying to LO24214 --

Dear Richard:

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Please see my responses to John
and Winfried for a partial answer to your comments.

In addition, although learning might result in an increase in capacity, I
wouldn't define it that way. According to the Random House Dictionary, to
learn is "to acquire knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction, or
experience." What we've learned we hold as a "fact." You would believe
it. (Believe: "to have confidence in the truth, existence, or the
reliability of something ...") If you've learned something and I
disagreed, you would think that you are right and I am wrong.

Why wouldn't you use the term learning in this scenario: a child observes
over a long period of time that his parents are usually busy when he wants
their attention. He asks himself (consciously or unconsciously) what that
could possibly mean. For the average five year old, the answer will be:
I'm not good enough. He has learned that.

What about this scenario? One tries to change one's own behavior, the
behavior of friends and family, and the behavior of business associates on
a great many occasions, and fails. Either the behavior doesn't change at
all, or it changes for a short period of time and then reverts back to the
way it previously was. What would one learn from these experiences? Most
people learn, or conclude, that change is difficult, people resist change.
For most people who have had this experience, this is a "fact." (Try
telling such a person that you think change is easy if you know how to do
it and see what happens! I've done it many times.)

I would consider both of these scenarios examples of learning. We look
for the meaning of events and when we find one that makes sense at the
time, we say: Now I know what's going on. Now I've learned something. Now
I understand it. I can predict behavior based on what I've learned.

I agree that this is not just semantics. I think what we've "learned" is
the biggest single barrier to innovation, change and new learning.
Unlearning, I submit, is the most important activity one can engage in to
facilitate innovation, change, and new learning. Whether the change is
eliminating dysfunctional personal behaviors and feelings, making needed
changes in an organization, or fixing our broken social institutions --
unlearning is required.

Regards, Morty

> But, I use "knowledge" as the capacity for effective action and "learning"
> as increasing knowledge, that is, increasing capacity.
> So, in my use of the terms, we build on old learning, and don't unlearn.
> We might forget or fall out of practice (a reduction of capacity), but we
> would not willingly "unlearn."


"Morty Lefkoe" <morty@decisionmaker.com>

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