Unlearning old ways

In a recent HBR article, Why the problem with learning is unlearning, Mark Bonchek contends that in this age of Digital disruption, companies have been too focused on learning new ways of doing things and have not paid enough attention to unlearning the ways of the past.

In every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models that have grown outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing to organization to leadership. To embrace the new logic of value creation, we have to unlearn the old one.

Boncheck clarifies that its not about forgetting what has been learnt in the past, but acquiring the ability to re-frame the situation and use a different mental model.

He gives the example of Porter’s Five forces and the essence behind the model that limits or boundaries must be set and then argues the likes of Google, Uber, Faebook and AirBnB don’t subscribe to this notion of setting limits.

They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead build platforms that enable others to create value. They look to create network effects through ecosystems of customers, suppliers, and partners.

Boncheck also articulates the core problem with modern marketing is the existing “one-to-many mindset” where we pretend “everything is linear and transaction”…

  • We segment into discrete buckets even though people are multidimensional.
  • We treat customers as consumers even when they want to be cocreators.
  • We target buyers and run campaigns that push messages through channels even though real engagement increasingly happens through shared experiences.
  • We move people through a pipeline that goes in one direction even though the customer journey is nonlinear.

He then asserts that “instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.”

“In the area of organizational design, we are seeing an evolution from formal hierarchies to fluid networks. But this requires a substantial amount of unlearning. Our instincts are to think of an organization as an org chart. We automatically escalate decisions to the boss. I often hear executives talk about being “more networked,” but what they really mean is collaborating across the silos. To truly become a networked organization, you need decision principles that create both alignment and autonomy. But this requires unlearning in the areas of management, leadership, and governance.”

The good news, Bonchek contends, is we can practice unlearning. So get started today!

Read the full article here.

 

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