The Deep End

Unlearning is like keratoconus. This is an eye disease I discovered in 2012. That summer, I walked into a LASIK clinic to correct my sight permanently. I wanted to see the time in the morning clearly, without bringing my phone or mobile up to my nose. 

Have you ever had that moment? The intent is clear vision. The report is diagnosis of an eye disease. To know it is a painful disappointment. Where the comparison diverges is that unlike LASIK treatment which accelerates deterioration to blindness, the will to unlearn can only fail forwards... if you are willing to take risks.

Last Wednesday's session with my master (we have an apprenticeship approach to her pedagogy) came after an impromptu trial in facilitation, where we talked about the learning experience. It was like finding out I had been born with a fixable eye disease.

The mission of purposeful unlearning is deep and requires letting go of prejudices and assumptions you never knew about. What do I mean? Take the basic task of brainstorming to improving your office environment.

A\ Letting go of assumptions. We make assumptions (it's ok, this is normal) which are our tacit starting points.



We usually start at the yellow dots (office environment: physical, aesthetic, relational, strategic, metaphysical, hybrids etc.) Moving from the yellow dots to the orange dot(s) is cute but hard; however, not impossible to partially fix with cognitive tools. 

The facilitator has to make all the dots disappear when facing the group. And then learn the group's dots and expose them where it helps guide the group to their goals.

This is a stalactite making up a chunk of the iceberg submerged under water. Or a WoW terrain map when you start a new campaign. It's not just shortsightedness, it's an eye disease. 

B\ Letting go of prejudice. We judge people all the time: how they make us feel, how useful they are, how they will make us money.

This is normal:


Where content (not behavioural) contribution is concerned, the facilitator must take everyone out of their box. No biased views are allowed in the room. Working with people you know helps a lot when planning and designing, but it sucks when facilitating. I heard that some folks meditate before a workshop. For someone who buckets by intuition, it means suspending your judgment without losing empathy. 

This is not even half of it: unlearning, not the assumptions or prejudices themselves, but how they are made, and retraining the reflexes throws me into the deep, deep end. 

Relearning.  A mistake made when entering the working world is switching tracks from active to passive learning. Learning and development curriculum are often set up like a person hurrying to get to the bathroom - the shortest distance from A to B. It is an active choice to turn off the critical part of your brain, often due to financial, political, career advancing incentives, as well as cultural / organizational constructs that inhibit their young folks from thinking creatively or critically about content they are getting about on the way things work.

There are breakthrough moments, but they don't happen often enough. It sucks to have loss of confidence and clarity (not the same as handling ambiguity), and a hateful apathy borne out of premature resignation. But it's not hopeless. And better, learning items that were dormant with new diverse frameworks, like the directive confidence to hold the group, prolific curiosity to ask-ask-ask, and ability to perceive when listening to things not said. It's more like circumferencing the iceberg at sea level instead of deep diving the iceberg. Or implanting lenses under your cornea. 

Where's the knife?