RAB Research Archive

Have You Unlearned Anything This Year?



At RAB, we consistently encourage learning. Learning is no longer just something you do for fun to learn new skills; learning is required to maintain your current proficiency, no matter what your job is. It was TRClark’s groundbreaking report: In Search of Learning Agility, published in 2008, that revealed that organizations must incorporate learning as a part of the regular workflow.

Robert Kelley of Carnegie Mellon University found that in 1996, knowledge workers stored 75 percent of the knowledge they needed to do their jobs in their own minds. In 1997, that percentage plummeted to 15 to 20 percent. Finally, in 2006, knowledge workers reported that they only stored eight to 10 percent of the knowledge they need to do their jobs in their minds. See the need? That was 14 years ago. Imagine how much more dramatic it’s gotten today, or in just this year alone.

Before we can learn, Barry O’Reilly, in his book: UNLEARN, suggests that learning is not enough, we must unlearn some of the things we already know to adopt new philosophies and new knowledge. O’Reilly says: I define “unlearning” as the process of letting go of, moving away from and reframing the mindsets and acquired behaviors that were effective in the past, but now limit our success.

Like learning, unlearning is also a process, not an event. It’s a continual evaluation of what we know and, in some cases, believe that is no longer relevant and needs elimination before we can adopt new concepts, beliefs and behaviors.

O’Reilly says that cycle of unlearning involves three steps: Unlearn: This first step requires courage, self-awareness and humility to accept that your own beliefs, mindsets or behaviors are limiting your potential and current performance and that you must consciously move away from them.

Relearn: As you unlearn your limiting-but-ingrained methods, behaviors and thinking, you can take in new data, information and perspectives. Breakthrough: New information and insights inform and guide new behaviors, perspective and mindset. Breakthroughs provide an opportunity to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned and provide a springboard for tackling bigger and more audacious challenges.

Think of it this way – if your morning cup of coffee sits out too long and becomes cold, in order for you to have a hot cup of coffee, you would have emptied the cold coffee from your cup first to make room for the new coffee.

So are there beliefs, behaviors and concepts from the past that you are holding on to because “It’s the way we’ve always done things”? The end of the year is a great time to clean up your office organize your files, and a great time to evaluate what you know. Determine what worked in the past and will no longer work in the future. Unlearn it, and like coffee, replace it with a fresh cup that will help you as you embark on the new challenges of 2021.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB





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