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Salim Solaiman


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Is there anything called "De-learning" really ? If yes, how it works? Is it really necessary for re-learning ?

Well , in professional arena it's a buzz word used frequently, when an organisation goes for rolling out new strategy or process , it faces lot of difficulties (as people are change averse) and training consultants talks that people need to de-learn old things to re-learn new things.

My supplementary questions alongwith questions of premise are

1) Even if scientifically true , does de-learning applies only to adult ?
2) What kind of changes in brain happens that makes learning new skills a delayed process?
3) Or its just a mere attitudinal problem.
4) My understanding is that we seldom use the whole capacity of our brain , then why delearning is necessary for re-learning ?

Looking for comments, thoughts, ideas

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    Jul 4 2011: My take is... it has something to do with a study in psychology where it is said we tend to react on things based on what we know hence locking our mind to only the things we know.

    De-learning I think is just another term for a more popular "thinking outside the box" or "breaking the comfort zone" or "emptying the glass before you fill it".

    1. Yes.. it happens only to adult because kids lack the ego and confident to stick with what they know. They embrace vulnerability and not afraid to be wrong.

    2. I don't know how the brain works... but what if I tell you men can be pregnant ? That first, initial, primoridal instinct that burst out on your mind is what cause a delay for you to explore (read:learn) new things.

    3. No.. it's more fundamental than attitude. It's about what form those attitude. Mindset. Paradigm.

    4. If my take on the term de-learning is right, it is NEVER about capacity.
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      Jul 4 2011: Thanks Judge for a thoughtful systematic answers.

      That's really a good way you defined delearning.

      Can't agree more what you told in your point #1 & 4.

      What I knew attitude is formed in broad sense what you called as mindset which is actually made up of lot of elements, like one's belief, values, standards, ethics, judgement etc and it's a iceberg we can see the tip only which is expressed in one's behavior.

      Whats your thoughts about that?
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        Jul 6 2011: Precisely.
        Attitude by definition is a product... output.
        Those belief, values, standards, ethics, judgement etc is the target of every de-learning process.
        You values ecology ? You need to grow out of it as plant engineer of a pulp company.
        You belief cow is sacred ? You can't belief that in sausages factory.
        You think exploiting one's misfortune is unethical ? You need to work that out as tabloid reporter.
        You judge men who walk around in pink ? You get the picture...
  • Jul 4 2011: Hello,

    Personally, I've never heard of the term "de-learning," but then I'm just an undergraduate student. I know little about business; however, I do know a bit about psychology. Here are my two cents:

    When you learn something, specific neural connections are made that will allow you to recall that information. The area between the two neurons is called the synapse, and this is where chemical signals (neurotransmitters) are passed from one cell to another. The more you study, observe or use the information the stronger that that connection can become; the surface area of the synapse increases, allowing for more activity between cells. When information is not in use however, the connection may weaken or even be lost. The brain of a child undergoes these same processes, but at a seemingly faster rate.

    As for brain capacity, I don't know how the brain handles contradictory information, but I imagine not well. If you have lost some knowledge in specific field, it should then become easier to learn something that may have seemed contradictory beforehand. Additionally, if you are able to identify why something is wrong and explain why the opposition correct, this is a helpful way changing that neural connection. I hope this was helpful.

    Ethan Doherty
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      Jul 5 2011: Hi Ethan
      Thanks for your interest and contribution.
      Yes that's not a widely used term but a bit of in use among Training Consultants in business arena. Whenever business organization , wants to train new skills to its people due to changed need at times longer than predicted , so heard lot of times consultants saying ,people has to go through "De-learning" process to Relearn new skill sets.

      Always wondered about scientific basis (neurological) of this, so opened up the discussion to learn from the community here.

      You defined well the process of neuro-transmission , but not sure about any proof about increased surface area in pre-synaptic or post synaptic location due to repeated study. If you know about that , it will be great if you share.

      Best wishes
      • Jul 14 2011: Whoops! First off, I meant to say the surface area covered with receptors increases (post synaptic), but it seems even that is not correct. I saw a figure a couple years ago concerning long term potentiation and may have misinterpreted it. Thank you for pointing that out.

        Also, I'm a little bit confused about what "de-learning" is; however, here is my understanding thus far: One sets aside, forgets, or "de-learns" some values, in order to preform a task or use a skill set with more efficiency...??? To me at least, that sounds uncomfortably close to desensitization. I hope I'm misled.
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          Jul 15 2011: Hi Ethan
          Thanks for coming back :)
          Well I am not sure about that increment of surface area or increase of receptors in post synptic cleft as well. Having very elimentary knowledge neurology am curious, so asked for proof.

          No worry I am also confused with the term 'de learning" so opend up the discussion. So far my thinking is that it's a "Buzz Word" used in business world as most people tend to be with in their comfort zone always. So like to work , follow same usual path of doing somthing. When organisation or someone tries new things to be followed people can't / don't accept it readily so there is GAP between the time when "New Thing" rolled out and the time of full Execution. Duirng these GAP people evolves to capture new way. May be that's the process is termed as de-learning (meant not practicing old way) & re-learning (meant practicing new way).

          @ Judge in his post below gave some nice thoughts as well about that.
          Have a good day