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Unlearning your way to optimally execute

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” –  Thomas Jefferson

My colleague would religiously refer to this quote every time we set out to pursue a challenging initiative. Many a times even when we have embarked on initiatives somewhat similar to what we have pursued before.

This quote is apt, especially, in today’s business scenario where customer requirements are ever changing, requiring organisations to be agile and dynamic. Organisations and its people need to continuously do things that they have never done before.

To do things you have never done before we need to navigate through what we have done before. We have over the years, accumulated many methods and processes that have worked for us. We tend to apply this while executing, in almost every goal that we pursue.

Does this mean that the earlier experiences are not relevant?  In today’s business scenario, we doubt it very much as many of methods and mental models that you built your career on may be irrelevant, incomplete or ineffective. They can be made relevant only when contextually applied to the job on hand. So you unlearn what you already know and learn new ways to get the job done.

“Unlearning” is popularly defined as “to make an effort to forget your usual way of doing something so that you can learn a new and sometimes better way”

Let’s take the game of golf; if you have not pursued sports earlier you would be more likely to pick up the game faster than the person who has been playing tennis, simply because you do not have any preconceived method or process of hitting a ball. The tennis player has to unlearn a fair bit to learn golf!   When we unlearn, we step outside the mental model in order to choose a different one.

In organisations, unlearning is the ability to work on alternative mental model than what we already know. By doing this, we constantly develop new methods and skills to execute agile objectives in this ever changing business landscape.

Imagine a typical organisation where leaders are operating with mental models that may have worked for them earlier, but these may have grown ineffective. We believe this to be one of the contributory factors to execution gaps.

Learning in organisations may not be the problem: it’s unlearning. Mental models are useful when utilised diligently. So, what does it take to unlearn and build newer mental models?

Old mental methods and habits
· Identify all reactions and automatic actions coming from past methods and become aware of it.
· Acknowledge that some methods are outdated and not relevant.
· Let go even if you need to start a fresh.

Creating new methods and ways
· Be open and think beyond the logic you know
· Create new methods to better execute your goals

Making new mental methods a habit
· Catch yourself falling back on the old mental habits
· Follow a routine that encourages new methods
· Reward yourself for every new method

To make new mental methods a habit here is a process that can be followed every time you embark on a new initiative / objective.

“Understanding” the objective, the uniqueness and the big picture.
> Understanding objectively the different “Customer Needs” who are directly impacted by the objective
> Listing out a set of activities to achieve the objective while satisfying customer needs
> Identify and mitigate risks along the defined set of activities
> Identify contextual (on ground) capability requirements along the defined set of activities
> Identify and get buy-ins from collaborators who are required to complete the defined set of activities
> Review the objective and activities every week to improve and make changes

Metis interventions are designed using our Individualised Value Proposition (IVP) method to bring in relevance and facilitate participants to; appreciate, identify, develop and apply skills to achieve individual goals and objectives. The participants need to improvise and think out of the box to get things done. Do write in to us on  or  if you require more details on the methodology.

Rajesh Athihalli

Rajesh Athihalli

A post graduate in management, Rajesh has over two decades of expertise in the field of strategic advisory. His interventions have helped many organizations across industries and sizes, gain clarity on their mission, vision, goals and go-forward strategies. He is renowned for his objective advice stemming from the specialist skills he brings to the table that is always focused on creation of value, maximization of growth and improving business outcomes. As a successful entrepreneur himself who has founded and built several organizations, Rajesh brings to each engagement the invaluable perspective of an entrepreneur and the applicability of each functional best practice in terms of the positive impact it has over business.
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