Unlearning LO24364

From: John H. Dicus (jdicus@ourfuture.com)
Date: 04/14/00

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Dear list members,

I wanted to share one way I have used the word "unlearning." I was
looking for a way to frame a concept and remembered hearing, at one time
in the past, the word "unbelief." As I recall, the word implied a
slightly different meaning for me than disbelief, or simply not believing.

Unbelief was used in the following context: a group of people had seen and
touched certain truths in a way that allowed them to make sense of how the
future was unfolding. They could associate cause and effect. They could
observe circular causality. They could make choices with respect to their
behavior and were able to notice the consequences of their choices -- both
for themselves and as they related to the larger community. Their mental
models were evolving in an enabling way (regardless how you wish to define

Then, a series of events took place that were largely misunderstood
because of their level of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. And a part
of it was that they lacked the courage to come to their edges and learn in
uncomfortable circumstances.

The end result was that their mental models devolved (used in this context
to mean how they made sense of the world as well as how they related to it
and acted in it). The MM's became less enabling. In this context, the
people ceased to believe in things that had served them well and would
have continued to serve them well had they not chosen to loose faith in

So, I used "unlearning" to describe the situation where people in
dynamically complex environments lose hold of previous leanings that would
have continued to serve them. They went "backwards," so to speak. They
moved away from the path they really wanted to be on because time
dependency (variable delay) and the complexity of the environment was
confusing them into incorrectly associating cause and effect. They could
not make good sense of what was happening.

In my case, I had introduced a time delay into the learning feedback of an
experiential learning exercise. No other changes were made other than to
add a delay that was significant enough to confuse what earlier had been
near-instantaneous feedback. It's not possible to print the names I have
been called in the spirit of learning, or depict the gestures that have
been evoked when cause and effect are delayed (and appear to be
uncoupled). People in these situations seem to let go of many things
they've held dear and began searching for new "laws" to guide them. (not
to mention a bit of blaming) Hence my choice of the word "unlearning."

But remember, a word, no matter how powerful its ability to shape meaning,
is in the end just a word. My thought is that it's important that we ask
and say what is meant by any word.

As an aside to this context above... I've been amazed at how many
extraordinarily complex explanations, composition/connection-wise, people
can come up with to explain what's going on but hardly ever expect
something as simple as behavior-over-time, or delays in learning loop
feedback. They imagine all sorts of complexity as pertains to
pieces-parts and how they're wired together (so to speak), but don't seem
to have much experience as to how these pieces-parts influence one another
over time (as the system goes into motion). Have we become freeze-frame

Warm regards,

John Dicus

John Dicus  |  CornerStone Consulting Associates
-- Bringing Systems To Life --
2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City, OH 44280
800-773-8017  |  330-725-2728 (2729 fax)
http://www.ourfuture.com  |  mailto:jdicus@ourfuture.com

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