‘Unlearning’s is defined as ‘moving away from something rather than moving towards something’. The interesting element being that this moving away is indeed the most critical element of moving towards success. In all my interactions with the leaders of the companies as well as the team members, one of the greatest challenges they face in integrating People is absence or unwillingness to unlearn. Studies and research have revealed that the major hindrance to learning is unlearning hence the learn to unlearn is the mantra for complete lucid integration in a new environment.
The greatest myth about unlearning is that people often mistake unlearning for forgetting. Well! Unlearning is not forgetting, it’s about accepting and adapting new ways or models to do a specific work. With the rapid growth of technology and advent of science, evolves a whole new plethora of new edge solutions, models and theories. At this juncture, if one needs to keep pace with the growing dynamics, one has to unlearn the older ones and embrace the recent trends or models with utmost passion and belief.
On similar lines, let me share a case with you all.
About the organization :
An E-Commerce start up company with approximately 250 employees across locations (PAN India). The company had a very dynamic business plan, defines strategic focus areas and well established departmental deliverable. Two years in the business and the company has reached break-even. Now was the time to aspire high and accelerate. On this ground, the management decided to change the approach and business model. Inspite of a well structured and established plan, there was lack of acceleration which was delaying the implementation of the new model in the industry.
Problem Statement :
As outlined by the management, the problem statement was – Lack of speed and agility for organizational change inspite of having an exhaustive business plan and strategic direction.
Approach Towards Resolution :
Our approach towards resolution of the problem statement involved the below steps :
- Holistic analysis
- Root cause analysis
- Proposed Solution
Holistic Analysis : The holistic analysis involved a broader coverage of all aspects of People, Culture and Processes. All key aspects of the organization were segregated into smaller segments and each segment was reviewed in depth. Pros and cons of every small element was discussed and concluded in collaboration with the leadership team. No major issue was seen from a broader perspective. Based on the focused group discussions, a small issue which was highlighted was that of – “People’s attitude towards change”
Root Cause Analysis : Taking this as a reference point and focus area, we proceeded with the root cause analysis on “People’s attitude towards change”. Various focused group discussions were conducted over a span of couple of days. The reconciliation of all discussion points brought out few interesting aspects :
a) All employees were keen on the change, hence the issue with not being ‘for’ the change was ruled out
b) The concern area highlighted by team members was not the change in itself rather how the change was done
This left two important questions for us :
a) Was the approach towards change really an issue?
b) Was it an acceptance issue?
After much retrospection and review, we concluded that the approach was fine. The issue was accepting the way it was done and the sole reason of that being unlearning. All the team members came from varied backgrounds and they were just not ready to leave behind the learning from the previous experiences and strive towards something new and different. The preconceived notions were the reason of laxity and lack of agility.
Proposed Solution : The solution to this was indeed very simple. There was no need of some intense model being deployed to come out of the situation. The need of the hour was a practical and lucid workshop on “The Art of Unlearning”. Herewith we designed and conducted a workshop with all real time scenarios and discussed the concept of unlearning. We brought out key aspects from earlier experiences of the participants which were holding them back from performing and crafted a comparative graph with the approach being followed by the current organization. The comparison drew a very clear picture of why few things which the team members did in the past is not suitable in the current scenario whereby establishing the need of following the current change model.
Integration : In order to ensure a complete integration for the change, a formal connect forum was introduced which enabled team members to connect on a weekly basis, discuss the pros and cons whereby working towards the common goal.
The underlying at this context remains as – Unlearning is not forgetting. It is about being flexible, open-minded and adapting the right solution for the respective problem. Unlearning does not mean that all the past experiences are futile and cannot be implemented. It’s all about respecting and accepting the fact that every organization is different and a combination of great learning as well as adoption of new ideas would make to success.
It is good to know, what to do, however it is the key to know, what not to do!