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

Businesses are faced with extremely dynamic and volatile scenarios. Technology has been changing rapidly and we see socioeconomic changes happening continually. Companies have to revamp their products and services faster than ever before to stay relevant and capture the attention of their target customers. Older methods and beliefs may stop working before the top leaders of a company can realise that a shift is necessary. We have witnessed how iconic companies like Nokia, Blackberry (Research in Motion) and Kodak failed to navigate the disruptions around them. Organisations have to learn continuously so that they are relevant in the market.

Is there a point of inflexion to watch out for?

More often than not, the changes happen over time. It is hard for leaders and insiders to realise that the ground beneath their feet is slipping away. For example, costs remain on the rise due to many events taking place at the same time such as supply chain issues, design problems, inflationary pressures, government policies and internal inefficiencies. It is not easy to pick just one out of many issues and at the same time, it is not possible to deep-dive on all fronts and evolve transformational programmes to address each of them. One has to prioritise a few of these and go all-out to improve them. The experience of the folks in leadership roles and their approach to managing the enterprise determines their success in picking out the root causes and evolving the right solutions.

It is not about one turning point, rather it is about the mindset of the leadership team that challenges could arise and they can involve all stakeholders to co-create the solutions. There may not be just one eureka moment! Rather there will be many eureka moments that need to be recognised. The leaders have to involve various stakeholders and create a collaborative platform to facilitate holistic learning about the issue at hand, cocreating and implementing the solution.

What kind of issues one has to deal with?

An organisation may be facing challenges or threats from competition or disruptive business models; sometimes, customer expectations could be undergoing changes that need to be understood and appreciated and accordingly, one may have to transform its structure, system or process to address them. Thirdly, there could be opportunities in the environment; we have to notice them and devise strategies to make the most of them.

In any of these scenarios, the organisation and its leaders have to not only be accepting of the new learnings but also question the relevance of their old methods. All the past methods might not become irrelevant, but some aspects may have to change or new aspects may have to be added. This is like upgraded software or a change from a Windows-based laptop to Macbook.

This applies to the life of an individual as well. One has to introspect if the old methods are relevant and the best still; acquire new skills, reorganise one’s skill repertoire and deploy the right one in the right situation.

Learning, Unlearning and Applying

Businesses and life, in general, will continue to evolve, some faster than others. We have to be observant of the changes around us and evaluate if our existing practices are the most effective in addressing those changes. More often than not, we have to unlearn some of our older methods and ingrain new practices and mental habits.

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