Training Industry Magazine - March/April 2018 - 13
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI
THE OTHER SIDE OF SKILLS/
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be
those who cannot read and write, but those
who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
- Alvin Toffler, Futurist
During times of change people at all
levels of an organization desperately
need new and expanded skills. But for
many, the mind is already full, with little
or no free space within which to invite
additional knowledge. What's required is
not more, but actually less. What's required
is a focus on unlearning.
BUILDING A CULTURE
AT THE TOP.
Unlearning involves releasing what one
has known, how one has performed, and
practices that have worked in the past
to make room for new learning and the
new possibilities it can bring. It's about
shedding outdated mental models that
no longer serve the individual or the
organization. It's about consciously
approaches, tools, rules and procedures
so that the mind is ready to take in and
act upon what's relevant today.
While unlearning seems like it should
be a welcome and liberating task, it's a
significant challenge for many individuals.
First, what we "know" is deeply embedded
beyond our conscious minds and is
routinely translated to tacit knowledge
and habits - both of which can be hard to
recognize and even harder to overcome.
Second, unlearning can be threatening.
It challenges our sense of competence. It
forces us to let go of an expert mindset,
which puts our contributions and even our
identities into question. And if learning
makes a person vulnerable, unlearning
magnifies that sense of discomfort.
Yet, despite the challenges, unlearning
offers tremendous benefits. Most
obviously, it frees up mental space
and attention, allowing individuals to
update their knowledge and evolve
their performance to meet current
needs. It creates new potential and new
possibilities. It enhances neuroplasticity,
helping the brain to continue to grow and
change regardless of age.
Unlearning builds greater adaptability
and flexibility. It's the key to innovation,
as old ways rarely produce new
results. And, with the introduction
of countless exciting new jobs each
year (and the routine obsolescence of
outdated roles), unlearning is becoming
increasingly vital to career survival and
Helping individuals embrace unlearning
as a prerequisite for new insights, skills
and results require a concerted effort
throughout the organization, with
support from executives, line leaders and
L&D professionals alike.
Building a culture that supports unlearning
begins at the top. Senior executives must
challenge themselves to revisit and
streamline values, mission and strategy.
Rather than adding to these important
framing tools, they must rationalize and
simplify what exists. They must audit,
and edit, policies. Before introducing
new initiatives, they must identify the old
initiatives that will be eliminated.
And while executive support is essential,
what line leaders do (or don't do) may
have the greatest impact on an employee's
willingness and ability to unlearn. Leaders
* Grant permission and set expectations
around challenging what people do
and how they do it.
* Engage in ongoing dialogue with
provocative questions that let others
know that "how we've always done it"
is not sacred and should
* Inspire curiosity, experimentation
and risk-taking while being careful
to recognize effort versus
* Forge fresh mental models by
encouraging people to embrace and
construct innovative frameworks
versus simply forcing new ideas into
an old mold.
Finally, L&D professionals can also
contribute to a culture that embraces
and leverages unlearning. Simply
inviting people to consider what's old
and needs to leave to make room for
the new can free up mental space and
energy for new learning. And in these
times of constant change, we must help
everyone hold lightly what they know -
anticipating that it will likely need to be
unlearned at some point.
Julie Winkle Giulioni has 25 years of
experience working with organizations
worldwide to improve performance through
learning. Email Julie.
T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - LEAD THE CHANGE 20 18 I WWW. T RAININGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - March/April 2018