The Unlearning Organisation LO9736

Thomas P Benjamin (
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 21:23:18 +0530

>From LO9704

"I am still working at understanding what people are talking about when
they are using the terms unlearning.." end quote.

To explain, let me start with an incident. While travelling on a village
road, I saw a lady riding pillon with a child on a bicycle. About, 100
yards from us, the cyclist lost balance. The child was thrown out, the
cyclyst was trapped under the bicycle and the lady was unable to scramble
to her child's assistance. Her saree(dress) was caught in the reart
wheel. Apparently, the bicycle fell because the saree had entwined into
the wheel. To help, it took me a while to figure out that to release the
lady from the bicycle, I had to unwind the saree rather than tug at
it(tear it was not appropriate!). The saree had wound into the wheel by
over a yard.

In life we seem to learn, winding ourselves into our world till those
actions seem to unsettle the mechanism. For example, in sports winning is
important. No problem. In school coming first is important. no problem.
Later, to come first - cheat - don't get caught - get reward - coming
first becomes more important than working for it .... The person is now
in an organisation. Actions are - pull down others - because winning is
important. Such actions from several in the organisation makes the
winning behaviour dysfunctional. For unlearning in this example, it means
to unwind, go back to the basics and start again. To be effective in the
organisation, in the larger interest of the organisation, the person(s)
may have to unlearn and learn the appropriate behaviour.

In actual practice, I think effective behaviour can be learnt through
unlearning-learning cycle or learning from where you are. In other words,
it is not neccessary in all situations for unlearning to precede changes
in behaviour. When a person has reached high levels of competence through
one set of behaviour, unlearning is neccessary to correct that behaviour.
This paragraph is to test an insight(from the Bible). Julie may
understand my illustration and the context. I hope others will too. St.
Paul had to unlearn - learn, while St. Peter learnt by trial and error in
making personal changes within themselves to be effective in their work.

Another useful term I gathered from a Catholic priest in Indonasia to
illustrate unlearning or its meaning as I use it was - making a


Thomas P Benjamin


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