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Letting Go to Move Forward: Unlearning as a Catalyst for Change in HR and L&D

Unlearning old habits to move forward

Adaptability helps achieving success - pictured as word Adaptability and a magnet, to symbolize that Adaptability attracts success in life and business, 3d illustration

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to let go of outdated ways of thinking and doing things, even when they no longer serve us? After 20 years of running a successful brand, innovation, and marketing agency, Ross Thornley, Co-founder of AQai and Author of Decoding AQ, found himself needing to shed elements of his past identity to pave the way for a new journey as a coach, trainer, and pioneer in the HR and EdTech space.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the ability to adapt is a prerequisite for success. However, one critical aspect often overlooked is ‘unlearning.’ According to AQai’s Adaptability Assessment, this intentional process of ‘letting go’ of old knowledge to reassess based on new data, is an essential part of adaptability intelligence and can be the catalyst for significant breakthroughs and transformative success.

The process of unlearning doesn’t involve forgetting, but it’s a conscious choice to disregard outdated information and beliefs that no longer serve us. It’s about acknowledging that what once led to success might not be applicable in today’s rapidly changing environment. This can be challenging, as we often have a deep-seated relationship with our past learnings and the results they once yielded. But the realisation that not everything needs to be unlearnt can make the process less daunting.

In AQai’s Adaptability Assessment, unlearning scores are a significant aspect. Those with high unlearn scores usually absorb new information easily and actively discard redundant data. They embrace different perspectives, even if they contrast with each other, and drive change within their organisations. Meanwhile, individuals with medium scores can balance between new and old ideas, but they may feel exhausted or uncertain in the face of change. On the other hand, those with low unlearn scores prefer sticking with known solutions and may find ambiguity challenging.

So, how might we apply the process of unlearning in today’s world of work?

Consider a particular area where you or your organisation feels ‘stuck’, or where progress is far too slow. It could be an outdated procedure, an obsolete strategy, or a lingering bias. Reflect on how these might be hindering your progress and then think of ways to unlearn them to make room for new, more effective strategies. It’s about making a conscious decision to evolve, taking into account new data and environmental factors.

“Unlearning is so important for breakthroughs and change—it is also a very effective area for delivering client value by facilitating and supporting people to commit to stop doing certain actions, no longer valuable in the new environment, before they do new things. In fact, our research across more than 1,000 companies has shown that improving our Unlearn Ability can boost overall adaptability by up to 40%.” – Ross Thornley, Co-founder of AQai and Author of Decoding AQ.

Unlearning, as Thornley points out, is a learnable and improvable skill. New research is continually expanding our understanding of this subject. It is a valuable key to overcoming many barriers and restrictions holding us back from transformative breakthroughs and rapid adaptation.

In essence, unlearning is not a one-off event but a continuous process. It’s about maintaining the equilibrium between learning new things and unlearning the old ones, based on the ever-changing circumstances of the present. To stay competitive in today’s world of work, it’s as important to learn when to unlearn as it is to learn.

The questions below can help you on your unlearning journey:

  • Where have you not been living up to the expectations you have for yourself or achieving the outcomes you’re aiming for?
  • What situations are you struggling with or avoiding?
  • Where have you tried everything you can think of to solve a problem, but you’re still not getting the breakthrough you’re looking for?

The answers to these questions can illuminate what you need to unlearn. The process may be uncomfortable, but it is vital to staying relevant and adaptive in a rapidly evolving world.

Remember, the journey of discovery doesn’t just involve seeking new lands; it often requires seeing with new eyes. Your ability to unlearn can serve as the compass in this journey.

So, are you ready to embrace the power of unlearning? Remember, your future success may depend on what you choose to ‘unlearn’ today.

Discover more at www.aqai.io