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Have you ever tried to drive on the left side of the road if you are  born in a country in which one drives on the right? Or have you broken out in a sweat trying to learn a foreign language or the latest version of a software system  you have been using for years? All these situations confront us with replacing one behavior with a totally different one; one in which our previous knowledge acts as a barrier to learning something new. How do you deal with this challenge of leadership?



Good leadership activities – and learning activities in general – are focused on creating a change of behavior that affects the bottom line in an organization. We fail in this effort if we do not recognize that people’s ability to acquire new knowledge in the workplace on an ongoing basis is limited by:

  •  their previous knowledge/skills and deeply held assumptions
  •  their previous attitudes towards their organization’s change initiatives/new programs/new opportunities.

Confronting the dimensions of unlearning and relearning results in more effective leadership learning experiences that strengthen the possibilities of real organizational renewal and change.

Unlearning should not be viewed as an end in itself, but as a means to ensure learning excellence, innovation, and ultimately change. Unlearning is adaptive leadership coaching at its best.

As an educator, how do you make UNLEARNING happen?

  • Holding three fundamental assumptions towards your learners: regard, awareness and compassion
  • Being clear about your unlearning objectives: either “sunglasses,””contact lenses,” or “eye surgery”
  • Taking on the four roles that facilitate the unlearning process of your trainees: host, co-learner, devil’s advocate, supporter
  • Using experiential leadership activities that explicitly touch on previous knowledge and future implemention of learning
  • Supporting the “after-the-class” process of implementation of learning with technology, trainees supervisor’s involvement, and informal events

What kind of leadership is required to deal with “unlearning” in your own organization? In what ways a leader helps others unlearn?