The Unlearning Organisation LO9850

Martin Wood (
Mon, 09 Sep 1996 17:45:42 +0100

Julie, in LO9704 on 03 Sep 1996, you wrote:

> I am still working at understanding what people are talking abut when they
> are using the term unlearning ..........
> >To effect real, lasting change, it seems to me that the change has to be
> >felt at an emotional level in an individual. As to what triggers it,
> >that could be one of many things. For example, a salesman faced with a
> >succession of potential customers saying "it's the wrong product for this
> >day and age" or a rival product manager watching the TV ad of Proctor &
> >Gamble's new detergent and thinking "there goes this year's sales if I
> >don't do something fast". Anyone else care to take up Keith's train of
> >thought ?
> Is it something like the notion of 'cognitive dissonance'? As I
> understand it this it is when we become conscious that our actions and
> beliefs are not aligned... or is it more complex in that we take into the
> equation the external data ?

Julie - your question gave me some food for thought (and the impetus to go
and check out the notion of "cognitive dissonance"). My understanding of
"cognitive dissonance" is similar to yours. Having recognised the
non-alignment, we feel uncomfortable and so our natural reaction is to
reduce this in some way until we feel comfortable again.

Having reflected, I think that the trigger for change may arise from
cognitive dissonance or it may not.

For example, I can believe that we should make quality products, and that
I believe we have a superior widget with go-faster stripes. I recognise a
need to change because my customers stop buying widgets (now
non-fashionable) and buy thingummys instead. I don't see that as
cognitive dissonance, since my beliefs are still intact and aligned.

Alternatively, X believes that as a manager she is open and approachable.
Feedback she gets says that her behaviour leads people to think the
opposite. That may trigger X into making a change to her behaviour. I
would see that as an example of cognitive dissonance. If I've understood
the theory correctly, X could also resolve her dissonance by (a) moving to
another role where she doesn't need to be open and approachable or (b)
convincing herself that the feedback was obviously wrong, so she doesn't
need to take any action :-).

I'm not certain that external data *always* comes into the equation, but I
am struggling to think of an example. Perhaps the trigger for change only
happens when we have some new data - which is unlikely to be created from
just within us. In which case, external data must always enter the
equation, and that would explain why I can't find my example !

Does this help your understanding ?

Martin Wood - Communications and Media Division, EDS UK         Tel: +44 1908 284050
The views above are mine, and not necessarily those of EDS

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