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Curiosity and Unlearning - Overcoming the inertia to learn

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything

George Bernard Shaw

If there was anything logical about human behaviour we would all see the current strange times as the ideal the opportunity to learn about new things, pursue new hobbies or interests albeit from the confines from our homes. All those things we have always said we would, if only we could. When it comes down to it, the scale of change that is upon us, not to mention the other priorities on the “to do” list are all competing for our attention and our motivation too. The result, for some, is quite overwhelming and so inertia sets in.

Curiosity supports learning in many positive ways and drives behaviours that are valuable beyond learning and work. The brain is plastic and along with oxygen, water and nutrition it needs exercise. Learning is a great way to expand the neuro-connections and release neurotransmitters that can make you feel good too. It doesn’t matter what you learn.

Most people’s idea of learning is formal where someone else shaped it for us deciding what was important and relevant. But in today’s workplace where everything seems to keep changing, we need to be more self-directed in our learning. To keep learning we also need to be prepared to unlearn old habits, knowledge and skills recognising that some of our working assumptions and presumptions may no longer be fit for purpose.

Here’s something to try, a small experiment if you will, while you are in lockdown. Release your mind and rather than trying to choose from the huge amount of courses or formal learning out there, just start with a question:

What would I like to know more about that I don’t know now?

And then off you go – just start searching online and see where it takes you. Don’t filter it, don’t worry about tangents, quality or sources yet just go with it. Warning: set yourself a time limit because you will be amazed where your journey takes you. Once you have decided to stop, just reflect a little on what you’ve learned, share it with someone else, ask what they think. Now, what else would you like to know about?

Liz Moody is Director of Executive Education at The Open University Business School. Liz most recently presented on an Institute of Leadership and Management webinar, which you can watch below.