My passion was always driven towards the future as this led me to finally start my social media platform where I share various topics about futures in Arabic including mega trends reports, innovative solutions, highlight inspiring futurists, and illustrate analysis tools. One day I was developing new content on inspiring futurists. A quote by the futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler grasped my attention, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” It made me reflect on the learning not only as individuals, but also as futurists.
We, as individuals learn everyday regardless of our aspired goals be it in formal or informal learning processes. It is always enjoyable to learn about something we find interesting. At other times it becomes a little challenging to learn about a topic when we are not interested to progress towards a certain goal. The known way of learning used to be simple since the channels of learning were limited based on one’s environment, education, and life experiences. Today, learning experiences has massively progressed with the digital expansion and keep on growing. Learning channels nowadays become easily accessible and instant. For example, I can learn a new language from YouTube, learn how to create inspiring content from an Instagram thread or get professional interior design ideas from Pinterest and so much more. This sounds amazing in theory until we come to know that knowledge is not fixed, things change and develop, many theories and frameworks became invalid. A good example would be when were children, we were taught that Pluto is a planet as part of our solar system, however, in 2006 it was announced by the International Astronomical Union that it is no longer considered as a planet since it’s a “dwarf planet”.
Therefore, as futurists we have to develop an agile capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn, as we go through our exploration journey of the possible futures in this fast-paced time filled with unpredictable changes and uncertainties.
THE AGILITY OF GETTING USED TO UNLEARN
It’s not easy at first as I believe that it is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly especially when it comes to the enormous amount of knowledge and information we come across as futurists trying to map out trends and directions.
What is reassuring about that is we subconsciously are designed and capable to learn, unlearn and relearn. I came across a very interesting term from use in the healthcare sector called ‘neuroplasticity’ where our brain can change shape, focus on some data while ignoring others, along with the ability to slow or speed think over time. Do you remember the learning cycle as a child, how you unlearned and relearned to become better over time? Or the time you discovered you were using a tool the wrong way and made it right?
Being an agile futurist is about getting used to unlearn, change perspective and allow to relearn with an open mindset that can digest different kinds of knowledge without any biases or prior judgements based on beliefs which might influence the outcomes.
The better we understand that change is the only constant today, the easier it will be to unlearn and relearn, but we also become aware that sometimes we need to to un-skill and re-skill. Sometimes futurists need to develop and upgrade their skills be it in the form of creating the right agile mindset or upgrading writing skills to attain better results. Skills developed 20 years ago are not the same as are needed today.
CHALLENGE YOUR OWN THINKING
To embrace this process in a modest manner, you can simply start by challenging your own thinking in order to unleash new potential possibilities. This can be in a form of assumptions to open a new set of thinking horizons like:
What approaches do I need to unlearn when I look at future scenarios?
What are the skills I need to relearn in order to upgrade my performance?
What are the typical approaches that I need to unlearn?
How do I relearn about the approach of tracking future directions?
How do I come up with a new framework of executing my studies?
Along with many more based on your fields of knowledge and level of experience.
TO A NEW PERSPECTIVE
The learn, unlearn, and relearn cycle can be implemented across all different aspects of our lives as it enables us as individuals to evolve into a better version of ourselves every day, along with being enabled to cope and adapt to any new uncertainties we might face in the future.
Utilizing this cycle, agile futurists will have the humility to challenge their best thinking, they will become accelerated adapters to new knowledge and skills and will always be better at opening a new horizon of opportunities to the world.
Azmi, Feza. (2008). Mapping the Learn-Unlearn-Relearn Model: Imperatives for Strategic Management. European Business Review. 20. 240-259. 10.1108/09555340810871437.
Call, M. (2019). Neuroplasticity: How to Use Your Brain’s Malleability to Improve Your Well-being. University of Utah. https://accelerate.uofuhealth.utah.edu/resilience/neuroplasticity-how-to-use-your-brain-s-malleability-to-improve-your-well-being
Hennessy, J. (n.d.). Embracing the Need to 'Learn and Relearn'. Stanford Magazine. Retrieved from https://stanfordmag.org/contents/embracing-the-need-to-learn-and-relearn
Sharma, S., Lenka, U. On the shoulders of giants: uncovering key themes of organizational unlearning research in mainstream management journals. Rev Manag Sci (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-021-00492-7
Why is Pluto no longer a planet? (2019). The Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/item/why-is-pluto-no-longer-a-planet/
© Asma Zainal 2022