Replying to LO24247 --
The problem with thinking about "Unlearning" is there are two quite
distinct types of learning.
If you learn a new skill, such as how to make bread, you have it available
and can use it or modify what you do. If you acquire new knowledge or have
a new experience you might change what you do to make it better. You might
drop an old method that did not work very well, perhaps someone suggested
that using yeast makes bread tastier, so you stopped using soda. I think
this "dropping" would be "unlearning" something perhaps and might be easy.
I can't think of a good name for this sort of learning so I'll call it
"Type 1" for convenience.
However, you might have a painful experience and "learn" something as a
result. Someone I know had an accident shortly after she passed her test
and started driving. As a result of this she has "learned" that she hates
driving and can't drive. She will avoid even trying to drive now. In this
case the experience she had, driving, is associated with the painful
experience (fear and embarrassment) of the accident. When she thinks about
driving herself these old feelings say "It's not for me!" This "learning"
(Type 2) is rigid and irrational. The fact that she had an accident ten
years ago does not mean she can never learn to drive and enjoy it! She
could "unlearn" her driving block by releasing the painful feelings that
hold it in place. This is easier to do with someone who listens without
judging and accepting the feelings.
Much of what happens in organisations and keeps them rigid and prevents
real "Type 1" learning are the effects of the painful experiences of the
organisations members that have never been fully released. Only, yesterday
someone said to me that he would not talk to his boss about his concerns
because he has tried it before and he got rejected. He felt hurt and angry
and did not want it to happen again. He had "learned" "Type 2" to avoid
his boss. He did not want to think about another way of approaching him.
Perhaps a crucial role of change facilitators, such as the people on the
list, is to provide the support, love and attention to enable people to
release their feelings and thus unlearn their rigid patterns of behaviour.
Does this ring any bells out there?
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