Home Economy ‘Unlearning’ vital for success in business: study

‘Unlearning’ vital for success in business: study


Sydney : Unlearning practices associated with an old workplace is just as good as picking up new ones to impact a company’s productivity, according to new research.

“Unlearning” implies discarding prior knowledge to make room for new information that would be useful when applied to major change affecting such an organisation.

Karen Becker of Queensland University of Technology has been studying unlearning and said it was an important, but often overlooked, way of dealing with workplace changes.

“I came from 12 years in business with a lot of involvement in change management — there was always resistance around change and people are often not willing to relinquish past practices, so I was always looking for ways to minimise this and make transitions easier,” she said.

“When I came across the term unlearning, I pinned my research on exploring this concept further. I found that it’s still not a widely used term, but it is an important and effective way of dealing with change in an organisation.”

Two of the cases Becker studied were the installation of a new computer system in a corporation, and a change in safety procedures in a heavy industry setting.

She said she found the most important thing was recognising that to make new processes effective, older ones needed to let go.

“It is about having people acknowledging previous habits and recognising that though they may be ingrained, they may not be the best way, and to accept that change is coming and be open to it,” she said.

She said assisting employees to unlearn past practices could mean changes were accepted more easily, and this would increase the productivity of an organisation by minimising the stumbling blocks that usually came when there was a change in systems.