Unlearning LO14760

Bruce Campbell (bcampbel@mpce.mq.edu.au)
Wed, 27 Aug 1997 11:22:42 +1100

Replying to LO14742 --

Richard C. Holloway wrote:
> I don't understand "unlearning." Indeed, I'm still learning about
> learning--sort of a double loop activity that fills much of my time. If I
> believe something, or act a certain way, based on lessons I've learned in
> my past--and I need to change my behavior or actions (I'm supposing that
> this is the basis for unlearning), then must I unlearn the lessons (as one
> must untie the rope to avoid cutting it!). Or do I learn something more
> profound, more attractive, than the old lesson? (Here I'm thinking of
> Fritz' concept of an oscillating structure being replaced by a resolving
> structure)
> Anyway--if you don't mind tutoring--please someone explain unlearning and
> its' relationship to learning.

I've been following this thread for a while.

It seems to me that there is no such thing as "unlearning" but, something
that has been learned may no longer be appropriate. In this context
"unlearning" is recognising one's personal "reality" and realising that it
is no longer appropriate and then setting about changing that reality.

In Simon's original post the problem is not encouraging "unlearning" to
effect change but to allow people to realise that their "reality" has
changed. This is a lot more difficult than just teaching new lessons as it
implies that people must come to grips with many things they probably
don't even realise that they believe. It is making them aware of the way
they have unconciously viewed and reacted to their world and surroundings.
Once this occurs people are then able to choose whether an "old", and
formerly unconcious, action is appropriate for the current situation or
whether they should do something different. This is what the quote ("free
your mind and the rest will follow") that Simon refers to is all about.
Peter Senge addresses many of these ideas in his chapters on Personal
Mastery and Personal Visions in The Fifth Discipline (a book which, I
suspect, many readers do not understand).

Learning is about lessening the gap between your current reality and where
you want to be, but to do this you must be able to recognise, explicitly,
your shortfall. Unfortunately very few people recognise their personal
reality, where they want to be or what the shortfall is. This, then,
makes learning and change such a challenge for those trying to implement

My 2 cents worth,

Bruce Campbell

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>