Adetya Chopra – It’s essential for leaders to learn & unlearn, and not end up as dinosaurs.

There’s nothing as dynamic as humans, not even time

Adetya Chopra – It’s essential for leaders to learn & unlearn, and not end up as dinosaurs.

In the 18 years of my eventful experience with handling HR and analyzing human behavior, I’ve reached one conclusion. There’s nothing as dynamic as humans, not even time. In the world of business and HR per se, we work full force to ensure that every voice is heard and all opinions are acknowledged. However, the key to mindful discussion is to be open to new ideas and contrasting opinions.

For this, however, what one must possess is a superpower – the art of unlearning.

Schools never emphasize on the importance of unlearning. Our basic pedagogy structure looks something like this – Learn (sometimes, sadly, rote learn), and learn over and over again until school ends. This might just be one of the biggest reasons why students don’t feel ready for the market even after they graduate. There are still certain institutions that see change as a threat, which puts culture in jeopardy and fiddles with the conventional system of functioning. The truth, in fact, is that change is inevitable, and is best experienced when adapted to.

Sun Tzu said, “Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.” In the 4th Industrial Revolution, knowledge is the enemy.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, defined the Fourth Industrial Revolution as, “A digital revolution characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.”

Basically, he meant that technological advancements will have a two-fold effect on society (every coin has two sides). It can either make things extremely easy and progressive or make life harder and standard of living poor.

How? Let’s see.

Personally, the Fourth Industrial Revolution seems to be more of a Knowledge Revolution to me.

All around, you are witnessing companies and professionals struggling in a world of cut-throat competition. What is more intriguing is that this competition, though amongst individuals, is run by technology.  The challenge is to cope up and keep abreast with technological advancements. That is not it. The Knowledge Revolution, as I call it, takes the difficulty level a notch higher. It entails, in the world of business, the requirement of people with an updated skill set. Those who haven’t developed the skills that the world today demands are the ones who are actually facing the wrath of the knowledge revolution.

This is affirmed by the rapid demand of knowledge by professionals and organizations.

The ability to learn and unlearn is quintessential to the development of an individual. This is applicable not only to a professional set up but also to the survival of a human as a social being. A glass of water full to its brim will start overflowing if you keep pouring water in it. There’s a huge lesson one can take from this. If you refuse to “empty” your mind with the thoughts or the skills that it already possesses, because you see change as negative, you will never have the capacity to fill in something new. Refusing change is refusing your progress. The ones who flourished post any revolution are the ones who adapted. They are also the ones who adopted.

Post the Knowledge Revolution, the gaps between every revolution will only keep thinning, and this will continue for the foreseeable future. This means we would then be required to move at a faster pace. In other words, job seekers and employed personnel will have to constantly update themselves and their skill set to be ‘employable’, and leaders will have to do the same to not be dethroned by someone more learned.

Let’s put it this way. Unlearning tends to gather more and more important as new things that need to be learned to start arriving. Be it in a classroom discussion, a debate competition, an office or the UN – unlearning is crucial for a better understanding of the situation. As leaders, ultimately, we all are on a quest to look for great things that will make life better and easier. This will not only require us to think will refillable minds, but will also need us to equip ourselves with the adapting and adopting mechanism.

The Darwinian theory is being redefined. Knowledge today defines your survival over any other strength. With a comparatively younger workforce, India amongst other countries is witnessing pockets of destabilization in its corporate leadership, younger talent replacing leaders of yesterday rapidly and this cycle is irrevocable. Leadership, which was defined by softer words, has larger elements of leading with knowledge today. For the current and future workforce and more so for leaders, the mantra is, “re-educate to stay relevant.”


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