Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn | Eric Reed

The futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler once wrote:

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

We live in unprecedented times – a time where we are bombarded with information from all sides. We live in the world’s largest knowledge society and are all exposed to the largest pool of knowledge since the dawn of civilization. There is Google Search, YouTube, the Khan Academy and literally hundreds of other learning sites.  Sometimes it may seem overwhelming and we may feel like shutting down, ignoring all this information and getting on with our lives as best as we can. Things change so fast and new information and knowledge are now being made available to us on a daily basis.

This vast pool of knowledge being made available daily poses challenges for both businesses and individual workers alike. How do we keep up with all the latest trends and innovations? We live in a meritocratic society, where acquiring the right knowledge is essential for both businesses and individuals to remain competitive. For individuals the constant lifelong pursuit of knowledge is essential to progress through one’s career path.

When new innovations and technology arrives, it is essential that we evaluate them and see if they make sense for our business processes; if so, we should be prepared to replace the old processes with the new innovations. Many companies and individuals alike have grown complacent and are still working with mental models that have grown outdated over time - from strategy and, marketing to organization and leadership. This is where the concept of learning, relearning, and unlearning becomes the key to success or failure.

But what do we mean by unlearning and relearning? To create the new logic of value creation – we must unlearn the old one. Unlearning is the essential process of being open minded and letting go of old habits, processes and information so we may create room for new habits, processes and information. Unlearning is not about forgetting the old lessons and knowledge; rather, it is about the ability to choose and embrace a new alternative reality, model or paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside of our current way of thinking and choose a different mental model.  Both companies and individuals need to adopt a constant and ongoing culture of learning, unlearning and relearning.

Southern Cross is highly committed to this idea and culture of learning, unlearning and relearning and offers tremendous opportunities to adopt this culture. Our leadership team is strongly committed to this model, making it easier for you as an individual employee to adopt this culture. Here are a few things you can do to travel down this path of acquiring new knowledge:

  1. Take advantage of all the training Southern Cross offers. Talk to your supervisor to see if you can be cross trained for several different skills and jobs.
  2. Learn more about the industry and all the technology innovations that are being introduced and used in this industry. You can do this on your own. Google Search can be your best friend at times.
  3. If you feel that you lack a certain skill, try to learn about it. If you feel you need to know some basics of Excel Spreadsheet for example or need to update your Microsoft Office skills, then go to YouTube. There are literally hundreds of tutorials. Remember that every time you “up” your game, you are making yourself more competitive and useful.
  4. If you have an idea on how to do things differently and better, talk to your supervisor and gently challenge the old assumptions. Suggest your new ideas about getting things done.
  5. Take ownership for mapping your own career path. Don’t rely on anyone else. Learn about our industry and try to predict what skills will be in demand five years from now. Then slowly learn and acquire these skills.

Above all, try to be patient and gentle with yourself. Acquiring new knowledge and unlearning old habits takes time and cannot be rushed. Southern Cross is committed to this culture of learning,  unlearning and relearning. As we go into 2019, try to make this one of your resolutions. Remember we live in a knowledge-based and meritocratic society. Hence, we must constantly upgrade our skill set and learn new skills and processes to remain competitive.

Eric Reed,

VP of Human Resources | Southern Cross