4 Keys to Effective Unlearning

February 3rd, 2014

learning-164332_640“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

Many maintain a personal goal for continual betterment and ongoing education. But unlike in years past, learning is not just the acquisition of new information. In this Information Age something that is known today is proven wrong tomorrow; requiring the ability to unlearn. Physiologically things cannot be unlearned, but literally it means to erase existing neural pathways to create the equivalent mental storage for “Things I know no longer.” This separation of information will now open up the ability to relearn.

Warning signs that you may need to unlearn:

  • When trying the new, you notice that others with less experience are excelling.
  • You find yourself still on the outside of a culture or industry.
  • Multiple suggestions are encouraging a change but you or your team are struggling to evolve.

The ability to relearn can be as simple as:

Start from the top. When learning a new skill, especially if it is something already familiar to you, learn as if it is all new. And while learning,, identify how it is unique to similar skills you have already mastered. Understanding these differences will help to keep a fresh and untainted perspective.

Embrace an open perspective. The greatest challenge with relearning, is too keep an open mind and willing to take in all the information as presented. The ability to turn off our natural filter of selective listening and sense of already understanding, to stay open to different ways of doing things.

Stay reflective. Continually look at processes, theories, and techniques that are in use. Compare the results and the expected outcomes. Ask coworkers, employees, friends and family for guidance and their viewpoint. Maintain the ability to reflect on your own behaviors. A broad-angle view will allow for a better overall understanding.

Understand your beliefs. Things that are known for certain will determine your behavior and choices. To change a behavior without changing a belief will only be short-lasting. An awareness of your beliefs will allow you to see when they are inhibiting a change.

To unlearn can be done quickly or require daily practice. But it will help to open new skills, experiences, behaviors and knowledge. Markets are changing so quickly, sometimes faster than can be learned the first time. Be aware that even something recently started may be outdated, making it time to relearn. Stay alert and highly flexible.

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