Have you ever noticed that despite attending unconscious bias training programs, the impact on our work, decision-making, and diversity and inclusion efforts has been limited? While these programs increase awareness of biases, they often fail to bring about meaningful change. It’s time for a different approach – it’s time to learn to unlearn.
Let me introduce Learning to Unlearn by sharing a powerful story of transformation, growth, and unlearning in the workplace. We’ve all been there – accepting specific standards, policies, biases, or behaviors considered the norm. We conformed to them, thinking they were the way things should be. But we needed to learn that these beliefs and practices were harmful, hindering our progress toward building genuinely inclusive environments.
Our team unconsciously adopted a communication style that favored extroversion, quick decision-making, and assertiveness. These characteristics were considered the norm, and we all adapted to fit this framework. However, over time, it became apparent that this approach unintentionally excluded the valuable perspectives and contributions of introverted team members and those who preferred more thoughtful, collaborative decision-making.
A quiet yet powerful voice spoke up during a team reflection session one day. An introverted team member, Sarah shared her thoughts on how the current communication dynamics stifled her creativity and limited her ability to contribute fully. It was a pivotal moment that prompted us to question the status quo and embark on a journey of unlearning.
We realized that what we once considered the norm was, in fact, a barrier to true inclusivity. We recognized that our biases toward extroversion and assertiveness shaped our decisions, inadvertently leaving valuable insights untapped. It was time for a change.
Through unlearning, we discovered the power of a seven-part framework called UNLEARN. Each step represented an opportunity to dismantle outdated beliefs, behaviors, and biases that held us back. We embraced this framework to create meaningful change and cultivate inclusive workplaces where everyone could thrive.
U – Understanding: We acknowledged that the norms we once accepted may be inaccurate or harmful.
N – New Perspectives: We sought fresh viewpoints and diverse voices to broaden our understanding.
L – Letting Go: We released the grip on outdated beliefs, biases, and practices that no longer served us.
E – Embracing Vulnerability: We fostered an environment where vulnerability was welcomed, allowing authentic connections and growth.
A – Amplifying Voices: We actively uplifted marginalized voices, amplifying their contributions and experiences.
R – Reshaping Culture: We reshaped our organizational culture to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion.
N – Nurturing Growth: We are committed to continuous learning and growth, recognizing that unlearning is an ongoing journey.
This robust framework helped us break free from the constraints of the past and create workplaces where individuals could bring their whole selves free from fear and bias. We witnessed a remarkable shift in collaboration, innovation, and employee well-being.
As we celebrate our progress, let us remember that unlearning is not a one-time event but a lifelong commitment. Let us challenge ourselves and our organizations to embrace growth, dismantle harmful norms, and create truly inclusive environments where everyone can thrive.