The art of unlearning

By Editor of SocialBusiness.org

At the end of November, Business Fights Poverty wrote a post called “Unlearning to innovate: 7 steps entrepreneurs need to know when getting into inclusive business.” I’m not one for New Year resolutions, at least not anymore, but there certainly is something about a new year that brings change, well, at least a desire for change. And, despite my greatest fears, I’m always one for change. However small and also however overwhelming. Dr. Fernando Casado Cañeque, Director, Centre of Partnerships for Development outlined seven steps for unlearning when it comes to social business: “First step: The world is limited. There is only one earth; Second step: Population growth is the biggest challenge in our history; Third step: Profit is not revenue minus costs; Fourth Step: Organizations are obsolete; Fifth Step: The challenge is not to have ideas, but to implement them; Sixth Step: Talent evolves and migrates; Step Seven: Opportunities have moved.” Why is it important to unlearn? Can’t we jsut learn? Or relearn? Cañeque got into why unlearning is an important part of social innovation as a whole:

It is typically in crisis situations when the absence of political leadership becomes most evident. In such situations, it is also when social innovation becomes most needed.

 However, as a concept, for innovation to be really social, it should challenge current thinking models and recognize that present decision-making parameters have not been adequate for solving global challenges. That is why it is now so necessary to start unlearning as a reflective method for critical inquiry, so we can fully analyze the limits of management promoting transition towards more inclusive and sustainable development.

 We need to unlearn in order to innovate. This proposal presents seven steps that will help the unlearning process towards social innovation, enabling entrepreneurs to generate new business models in times of crisis that are more inclusive and sustainable.

When it comes to those dreaded “New Year’s resolutions,” they’re almost always individual. And of course, guided by the market, marketing and consumerism. I will go to the gym. I will be kinder. I will eat more local foods. The necessary “we” is almost always lost. But the “we” is what makes things complicated and heavy. A “we” is somewhat dependent on other people, on their actions and non-actions. Unlearning, when it comes to social business, has a communal aspect that requires for a creation and re-creation. There are countless — and I mean, countless — steps that could be added to Cañeque’s list. Some, perhaps, more necessary than others. At the same time, however, what is essential is a mind that is open to throwing certain ways of doing things out in the garbage.

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