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Harness the Power of Unlearning: Navigating Change in a Volatile World

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Change, marked by globalization, has become multifaceted and constant. Amidst this disruption, the ability to 'unlearn' and 'relearn' can make or break success. Leaders today face the challenge of disrupting entrenched behaviors to learn afresh, an often unnerving yet essential journey.

Experience and expertise, once prized assets, can hinder progress when change calls for innovation. Enter 'unlearning,' the deliberate disruption of ingrained thoughts and habits, aiding us to adapt and rise above the flux.

Consider Jean, laid off during the pandemic, transitioning from a Chinese manager to a US-based one. Where her previous role required passive acceptance of decisions, her new role demanded active decision-making. Here, Jean had to unlearn her old understanding of authority, and step up to embrace her newfound autonomy.

However, unlearning is not an easy task. Our brains are wired to resist change, seeking the comfort of the known. Unfamiliar territories present risks, leading to natural resistance. However, neuroscientific studies show the brain's incredible capacity to rewire itself, setting up new patterns of thought and action.

So, how can leaders employ unlearning to navigate today's VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world? Firstly, identify the changes and associated pain points you're experiencing. Determine what needs to be unlearned and relearned, and construct new beliefs and habits.

Secondly, loosen your grip on control. Yes, control can create a false sense of security, but genuine security lies in embracing calculated risks and potential opportunities. Evaluate what you can afford to risk and what remains non-negotiable.

Lastly, maintain agility by cultivating a growth mindset. The most successful leaders remain energized by change, thriving on challenges. They readily unlearn and relearn, enhancing their strategic flexibility.

Unlearning, therefore, becomes a tool to turn adversity into opportunity. Embrace this path, and tap into your potential to navigate change successfully. For support on your journey, consider scheduling a complimentary coaching session with me.


  1. What are some deeply ingrained beliefs or habits that you feel might be holding you back from adapting to the changes in your work environment?

  2. How can you begin to reassess your comfort zones and take calculated risks to enhance your flexibility and agility in a rapidly changing world?

Photo credit: Photo by Joshua Welch from Pexels

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