Learning can be easy if we can unlearn first

I have been spending most of my day job influencing, proving, educating and reinforcing. This cycle continues almost inadvertently,mostly during my interactions with my team members. Be it work estimation, solving a problem, understanding the work or just plain team exercises, most often I have to first share with the team how to unlearn the existing habits and be adaptive to new ways of working.

The reason it becomes difficult for people to learn new things is because they tend to hold on to what they already know – processes,practices,  methods, ideas, habits and behaviour. Just like it takes a lot of peeling before one can really get to the onion each of the aspects are like a layer that need to be undone one at a time ; several times before anyone can completely grasp new ways of working and appreciate the principle behind it ; and thus truly learn new ways. Even if a person is completely on board to learn new ways and change to new things the various layers of resistance have become so thick that even without knowing learning and implementing new ideas becomes a tough task. If you introduce new practice and is liked , as soon as the time to adapt comes the person then has to uncover or undo several years of learning.

For instance, there is always a strong notion that certain things cannot be done in a different way , even if the current ways is cumbersome,  less efficient, not repatable or scalable and hack at times. General tendency is to be keep following same methods because  at least its a known beast and people are accustomed to doing workarounds to solve or implement a solution.

However as soon as I start putting a practice in place i get resistance in some way or other Pushback can vary from passive aggressive body language to  reasons which can range from “too much effort”, “not the right solution”, “too much time”, “not very useful” etc. In principle even if one agrees that fundamental goal is to  improve there is always something that is stopping them from completely being on board.

However just calling it completely a people issue – attitude/ willingness/ capability to experiment is also a unfair.If one doesn’t know what they don’t know then it is incredibly hard to show the light at the end of the tunnel. I would rather have such reservations and pushback being addressed via technology – as in technical solutions . By that I mean showing people different ways to do same things , running smarter solutions in parallel to old techniques; letting naysayers come to term with the fact that “their baby” is indeed not so cute anymore. I found that developers, architects, testers are especially on board pretty quickly if they can see some new way of working actually working. It becomes more easier for them to unlearn if they can see a new method

Generally such – in the face improvement of ideas and tech solutions have to be done using skunkworks approach. So be it. That makes the results all the more sweet.


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