Between regular classroom-learning and e-learning there is a sacred space that not many are aware of. And that is one of unlearning. Yes, you read it right, un-learning. So what is unlearning and why is it important in today’s world?
So far our focus as a society has majorly been on learning because in the words of blogger Peter Evans Greenspan, The world is changing and we are all struggling to keep up, searching for that new tool, technique or idea that will provide an edge and help us to survive in a world that seems to lurch from one problem to another. If we may take the liberty to say so, then e-learning (at least in the corporate domain) in a sense thrives because people feel this need to constantly upgrade their existing skill-set with newer ones, so that they may always have that leading edge.
To unlearn doesn’t mean to forget, block, or shut out information, knowledge and wisdom you have gathered over the years. It just means to select information, knowledge and wisdom that can serve you in your present, and let go of the rest completely (and to know what serves you, you have to know yourself thoroughly. Yes, even when it comes to technical knowledge).
To quote Peter again, Learning, however, appears to be quite hard. Most of us spend our teens and early twenties accumulating a body of knowledge which we expect to use for the rest of our working lives. Then the majority of our twenties is spent in a learning race as we struggle to keep our skills current. Even this isn’t enough though, as many managers are starting to think that in today’s rapidly changing work environment, that the useful shelf life for our hard-won knowledge is around eight years and, consequentially, that by the time you are thirty you are considered to be in terminal decline and no longer worth the premium price.
So, if one wants to go from leading edge to cutting-edge one needs to unlearn. First things first, the speed at which e-learning is spreading its wings, especially in India (at last count the Indian e-learning industry was estimated at $3 billion) means that soon there will be a lot of knowledge going around in our part of the world. And that is the very reason you should unlearn, or you will just drown in the sea of knowledge and data and facts. Now, nobody is saying that you shouldn’t acquire new skills; all one is saying that you need to let go of a few old patterns before you start using newer ones. Unlearn, so that your mind always remains fresh like a flowing river; so that the knowledge of the past may merge seamlessly with the knowledge you are about to seek.
Our mind is a filter and not a dustbin. Turning a little spiritual here: The temple of learning is in our heads, but the temple of unlearning is in our hearts. The ego fights with all it might when you try to unlearn something. This is because the ego feels secure in the known, and fears the unknown. It is only the heart that can soothe the ego and teach it to let go of things our ‘being’ doesn’t need anymore.
I have read a lot of blog posts on unlearning, but Peters words are always bang on target: Anytime that we are attempting to learn something new this new thing is measured against what we already know. If we put more weight on what we already know, on tradition and our inherited past, then it will be harder to learn the new. Our nature our bias towards an inward focus based on tradition and the past, or an external focus on what we are seeing around us â€“ cuts across age. Those of us who are willing to question our assumptions will find that we can unlearn (and relearn) at any age. Those who put more weight on what they already know will struggle to change at any age. Today’s digital native will be tomorrow’s digital dinosaur if they are unable to unlearn.
So, no matter how many new skills you learn or new courses you get yourself enrolled into, make sure you do so in an aware manner. To unlearn is to be in the flow of life always.
** Tell us about the biggest thing that you have unlearnt.**