We simply have to adapt faster to stay competitive. The ability to adapt to change and proactively make changes to career will make a crucial difference.


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Alvin Toffler

The young generation today has been wondering how we (the five series model) managed to survive those days back in the ancient pre-Facebook era. Their digital brains boggle even further trying to imagine how anyone could ever do their job without computers, email or mobile phones. They have to realise that in 20 years’ time, the coming generation will think the technology their parents use today will become as antiquated as the typewriter, pager and the big-size mobile phone we relied on to carry out our job 20 years ago. The same goes to the learning process. It is estimated that 40% of what tertiary students are learning will be obsolete a decade from now. If we realise, some of the most in-demand jobs today did not even exist 10 years ago. Looking at the globalization of talent and continued innovation in technology, it is hard to imagine what the world and the mobile force will look like 20 years from now. It is not just about keeping up with the rate of change and the nature of the work we do, but how we do it and where are also matters. Now people can work from everywhere. Traditional boundaries disappear and the global talent pool becomes more skilled and mobile. We simply have to adapt faster to stay competitive. The ability to adapt to change and proactively make changes to career will make a crucial difference. However, many people tend to stick with what they know and avoid situations or challenges they may be forced to learn something new. Instead, they do their best to ‘mould’ the changes going on around them, either in people, events and the environment, to fit with their current mental map. It may work fairly well for a while but what it doesn’t do is prepare them to adapt to a future that may well require an entirely new set of maps.

Learning is not just adding information and knowledge to boost our experience but it embodies unlearning and relearning as well. To some extent, is linked to change. If people understand the reason they are being asked to make a change, they will be more prepared to drop old methods that hardly vanish (Unlearn) and adopt new ones (Relearn). Under the current climate of uncertainties and rapid change, acquisition and retention of knowledge is only for a short period. We need to unlearn the beliefs and habits that hold us back and get them superseded by others that help us achieve the success we look for. However, unlearning is not merely about giving away or expulsion; it is about rejecting a previously held belief or repudiating a long revered theory which must be cautiously handled as it can pose a threat to any learner. However, sad to say that some people refuse to take up another learning session once they are out of academic studies. This is partly due to their perception about learning. One needs to admit that knowledge is temporarily parenthesized and remains part of individual and even organisational patrimony at the time of unlearning. Learning to let go of old and out of date beliefs and thoughts is one of the skills we all need to develop. Salesmen who achieve their assigned targets usually follow the same techniques unless and until they fail and then they decide to adapt to the new situation and change their techniques accordingly. This is another example of unlearning the old techniques that didn’t work and relearn new ones that lead to better results. Finally, we need to remember that learning is not just about acquiring knowledge; it is about learning when and how to unlearn and relearn.

– Zahidi –