The Unlearning Organisation LO9674
Mon, 2 Sep 1996 20:28:20 +1200

Replying to LO9662 --

Robert wrote:

" When the car market changed in the 1970s, and quality and economy became
market drivers, GM nose-dived and, arguably, has still not fully
recovered. I would submit that GM's failure to adapt to its changing
market was because it had to "unlearn" its paradigm before it could make
substantive changes.

"I would like to emphasize two points here: the first is that GM was
correct for a long time. Managers learned a paradigm that served the
company well for decades. The second is that, once the paradigm was no
longer valid, there was no incremental improvement or "work harder,
faster" approach that would help them. Before GM could learn a new
paradigm, it had to collectively unlearn the old one."

It seems to me that the issue here is not that GM had to 'unlearn', but
that they failed to access the REAL learning in their former success,
settling instead for the surface manifestations of it. GM's success lay in
satisfying existing market needs. That paradigm remains valid - they
needed to truly learn what the actual paradigm was.

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business
New Zealand


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