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Unlearning

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years ago

Learning to unlearn 

 Here's what John Seely Brown says about developing capacity and willingness to unlearn.

 

The curious thing is that with these exponential changes, so much of what we currently know is just getting to be wrong. So many of our assumptions are getting to be wrong. And so, as we move forward, not only is it going to be a question of learning but it is also going to be a question of unlearning. In fact, a lot of us who are struggling in large corporations know first hand that the hardest task is to get the corporate mind to start to unlearn some of the gospels that have made them successful in the past and that no longer will actually work in the future

 

It turns out that this learning to unlearn may be a lot trickier than a lot of us at first think. Because if you look at knowledge, and look at least two different dimensions of knowledge, the explicit dimension and the tacit dimension, the explicit dimension probably represents a tiny fraction of what we really do know, the explicit being the concept, the facts, the theories, the explicit things that live in our head. And the tacit turns out to be much more the practices that we actually use to get things done with. In fact we need to think about the brilliant distinction that Bruner created some time ago called “learning to be”. It’s easy to learn about something. The tacit is learning to be. There is a tremendous difference between reading a physics book and knowing all the laws of physics. It is something else to being a physicist. And learning to be is what we are talking about when we are talking about this tacit game. 

 

Now the problem is that an awful lot of the learning that we need to do is obviously building up this body of knowledge, but even more so the unlearning that we need to do has to do with challenging the tacit. The problem is that most of what we need to do lies in the tacit, most of us can’t easily get a grip on. It is very hard to reflect on the tacit because most of what is tacit, you don’t even know that you know. And in fact ... what you do know is often just dead wrong. And it is almost impossible to change your beliefs about something that is in the tacit and is different from what you happen to think. 

 

(posted by Norman Jackson 23/08/07 - John shares many rich insights into what learning in and for a complex world means and is coming to mean through the text, video and audio resources on his own web site John Seely Brown web site)

 

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