There has been a lot of change in a small period of time in the workplace. Organizations are constantly making changes to keep up with competitors or become the next best thing. Even in industries that used to be steady and stable like healthcare and education, we’ve seen layoffs, closings and mergers in the past few years.
Through all this change, I’ve seen a vast array of struggles and coping methods. The most interesting to me, however, is watching people try to unlearn things. That’s right, unlearn. The beauty is that those who were able to do it survived some of the greatest changes in organizations.
Often times, people going through change have a hard time accepting new ideas, new work and new people and that’s to be expected. The problem I see is not so much that they cannot learn new things or that they don’t want to but more so that they have a difficult time letting go of the way things used to be – a problem with unlearning what they’ve known for years or maybe decades.
While most people struggle with change, I’ve seen a common theme in those who overcome their struggles and it’s the ability to unlearn things. They are able to make connections between what was, what is and what could or should be. They know how to evaluate the differences and determine whether a change is good or bad. Then, they unlearn what they knew previously if they think the new way is better.
The magic is in unlearning because they aren’t committed to believing that what they used to know is necessarily the right and only way. They can hear the reasons for change, understand it and thus, embrace it – if it’s a good change, of course. These are not easy things to do because it’s natural to gravitate towards the things we are comfortable with rather than unlearning them.
If we all focused on the power of learning to unlearn things when we are dealing with a lot of change, we may be able to better see the benefits of the change. How have you struggled with unlearning and how did you overcome that struggle?