Last June, Bill wrote a piece on Learning is Easy, Unlearning is the Trick, where he talked about how important unlearning and relearning is to an organizational transformation. One of my favorite quotes from the post is,
It takes a sound intellect and a fair degree of self confidence to abandon something you know and have believed in, and replace it with something new. That is especially true if your faith in that something has served you well and your knowledge of the new thing is a little shaky. The easy path is to keep all of your beliefs intact and only adopt the bits and pieces of the new idea that supplement those beliefs.
I know more than a few politicians, from both sides of the aisle, that should take that to heart. Not to mention a lot of manufacturing execs.
For some reason his post has been very popular among a rather unique audience. Every few days, out of pure curiousity, I take a look at the blog stats. I can tell what search terms were used to find Evolving Excellence, and where the visitor is located. At least once a day someone finds Bill’s post by searching on "unlearning." Every one of them has been from India.
What is driving this fascination with unlearning in India? Is there a cultural issue that makes unlearning more difficult? As they absorb more and more outsourced production and services from western countries, do they need to unlearn old cultural attributes and relearn new ones? Digging into the other search results gave no additional clues.
Perhaps the more important question should be why is no one from outside of India trying to learn more about unlearning.
Many of us just returned from this year’s AME Annual Conference in Dallas, the largest lean learning event around. Listening, participating, and learning is the easy part. Unlearning our past experience-driven knowledge is the hard part. Learning how to execute a kaizen event is easy, unlearning twenty years of traditional standard cost management and then relearning lean accounting is tough.
Many consultants are making a buck promoting "learning organizatons." Perhaps we should be promoting "unlearning organizations" instead.