Unlearning/Learning Organizations – The Role of Mindset

John Pourdehnad, Bruce Warren, Maureen Wright, John Mairano

Abstract


Most learning by adults and organizations occurs when something new replaces in the mind that which was previously thought to be known, that is, unlearning. Unlearning must frequently precede or at least occur simultaneously with learning. Nevertheless, the literature on organizational learning has virtually ignored the unlearning process until recently when few authors have given it some attention. Research in the field of organizational learning and knowledge management shows that learning and adaptation takes place much more easily within the prevailing mindset (view of the world) than outside of it.

Unlearning is a challenge because the human tendency to preserve a particular view of the world is very strong and the change to a new paradigm not only requires an ultimate act of learning but also of unlearning.

Our assumptions about the nature of reality can impose the most severe restrictions on our ability to learn. Unlearning these assumptions requires raising them to consciousness and this can occur only when we confront the dilemmas that they create. Therefore, raising our worldview to consciousness is among the most important things we can do to enhance our learning and unlearning. The intention of this paper is to demonstrate that it is possible to design systems that not only facilitate learning and unlearning within the prevailing worldview but it can generate questions about the adequacy of the assumptions that make up that concept of reality.

Keywords


Unlearning; learning; mindset; organizational learning; knowledge management

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