It was in the summer of 2015 that I first encountered this phrase in a candid chat with my then supervisor who was also the CEO of the conglomerate I was employed with. He wanted me to ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ how communication is done. I was a bit flabbergasted hearing this from him, and more so since I was just a couple of months in the organisation and was only beginning work on the first big launch campaign. With over 10 years of experience in devising and executing global and local campaigns, I was confident that I have a thorough understanding of my domain. The first thought that crossed my mind when he mentioned this was- Does he think I don’t know my work well? What should I really do to be able to meet his expectations?
However, I took his feedback my stride and decided to get to the bottom of this and ensure that I meet his expectations. The next few months were extremely interesting- with new ideas, new ways of doing communications, new and challenging campaigns, loads of appreciation and a mantra that lives on!
So, I thought I should write a column talking about what ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ is all about and why is it the buzzword across organisations today.
First things first – What is ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’?
This is more to do with the dynamic times and how one is expected to be abreast of the latest in their domains. Gone are the days of ‘work hard and play by rules’ to become successful. This was only in the pre-internet era. Today, with the rise of internet, smartphones, and globalisation, one needs to consistently evolve his strategies, unlearn what worked well many years back, and set the tone for relearning.
Entrepreneurs seem to have followed this all this while!
The best example of individuals who follow ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ are entrepreneurs. They are the restless lot, passionate about their idea and committed to make it big. They do not hesitate to mend their ways, explore the unknowns and even pivot their business model, so as to build a successful business.
Learn, unlearn and relearn to become better leaders
As individuals, we are in a constant state of adaptation today. One needs to question assumptions about how things work, challenge the old ways, and ‘relearn’ what is now relevant in their job, profession or career. Learning the new ways will ensure one is honing his skills and is improving as he climbs the ranks. This approach helps build better leaders- who are well prepared to adapt to change at work driven by business decisions or growth. While the non-adaptive ones scramble to figure out where to go, lifelong learners are the ones who can maintain momentum and productivity even in case of a radical change at work. They can work easily in global teams, tasks, and countries- a much needed skill set for global companies.
Let’s see how this applies to the life of a Communications professional
If we look at the world of communications, there has been a sea of change, over the past few years. This has primarily been driven by the rise of digital media, the need for strategic thinking to break through the clutter, and the increased collaboration across markets. There is a need for us as Communications professionals to revisit the tried and tested strategies keeping in mind the current market scenario and the key factors that influence it. While experience continues to be important asset, it is equally important to get the best from the learnings and reuse them in the new scenario.
One needs to devise an impactful and differentiated communication strategy that resonates well with the target audience. To give an example, a conventional PR strategy will not be impactful in today’s times unless bundled with new age and digital PR, digital storytelling and a strategy that cuts across a range of influencers. Storytelling and personalisation which may not have been very important a few years back, have now become critical to the success of a communications campaign. Also, integrated communications campaigns across all touchpoints are the key.
To sum it up…
As Darwin rightly said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. There are numerous brands who did not evolve with the times and hence, were reduced to nothing, Take the example of Nokia, a market leader and the most trusted brand in India in its good days, it continued to live with the same design and form factor as well as Symbian and then Windows OS, finally resulting in the brand becoming a very small player in the overall handset market in India.
It is imperative for us to follow the mantra ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’. This will ensure we stay relevant and help us devise successful strategies. Change is the only constant and one needs to understand that learning is essential for anyone who wants to thrive as well as grow in the corporate world.
“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
― Alvin Toffler, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century