20 May 2015 20:21 IST

It’s all about unlearning and re-learning

One day, you may need to re-learn few things what you have unlearnt over the last few years!

Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” How apt are these words, when we speak about transitioning from the campus to the corporate.

And why just for ‘campus to corporate’….this is applicable for any transition, even applicable as we pass through our daily corporate world, be it at the start of a career, at the middle of it or at the fag end of it. We need to keep reminding ourselves to unlearn many things, and relearn them at every facet of life.

Cycle of learning

Let us look at the last few decades. Our society has unlearnt many things and re-learnt many. In the world of computers and mobile technology, our ways of living has changed. For example, the fixed phone was replaced by mobile technology; we seldom receive physical letters anymore as e-mail or other electronic modes of communication has replaced them all; we seldom visit banks, e banking has become the norm; social media is something that never even existed even a decade back, but today a life without Facebook, Linked In or Twitter is unimaginable. The examples can be many.

And there will be many further changes on the cards and with rapid inventions, certainly even at a faster pace which reminds us that the process of unlearning and relearning will continue for ever.

Few years ago, I went to attend a lecture of a reputed HR professional. I always looked up to him, and when the first opportunity to attend his session came to me, I did not hesitate to accept the invitation. And as he appeared on the stage, he exceeded my expectation, just with his opening remarks. It still resonates in my ears, he said, “I am working for the last 40 years but I am a student of HR. Over time, every day I realise that I have so much to unlearn and so much to re-learn.” I was so thrilled to hear that statement, that even at the middle of his talk, I almost stood up, and saluted the gentleman for his humility, and ability to admit that he has many things to unlearn and relearn even after so many years of experience behind him and when people consider him as an authority in his field.

Open mind

At the end of his lecture, as I met him, his advice was, “Every day, treat yourself as a toddler, and have that open mind. Learning and unlearning is a fun game you can play with yourself every moment. And you will never get bored.”

As you go out of campus to accept a new role your past experience or education would have a dominating influence in your mind. Unlearning few suitably would allow you to keep your mind open to new ideas and shed some of your beliefs and theoretical knowledge to suit the new world. All those theories that you have learnt in college are very important to build your knowledge base and understanding, but their applications may differ from industry to industry, job to job. Having an open mind will help you use your knowledge suitably.

And who knows, one day, you may need to re-learn few things what you have unlearnt over the last few years!


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