Learning to Unlearn

Photo by Magnus Lindvall on Unsplash

Brillio’s India Leadership team completed a two day training on “Leading in the 21st century”. Facilitated by Prof. Sudhanshu Palsule, the sessions helped us introspect our existing leadership traits and our ability to adapt and survive as leaders in in 21st century. Over the sessions, we learnt one central idea — we, humans, are wired to think in a certain way. That way of thinking has given us the highest odds of survival as a species. Unlearning that mode of thinking is fighting against millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of culture. However, leaders in this era cannot afford being in the status quo. The world of exponential change has forced their hands.

The session had 4 main ideas. The themes of unlearning is common across all of them.

  1. Develop the ask mode of leading
  2. Communication, Action, Behavior (CAB) Profile
  3. Mindset 1, 2 & 3
  4. Being in mindset 3

Developing the ask mode of leading

Leaders do not know all answers. Millennial do not want solutions. Given this the traditional idea of top down communication does not work.

The first unlearning thus becomes along the idea of Telling vs Asking. Leaders should unlearn ‘telling’ and learn ‘asking’ while communicating with their teams.

Communication, Action, Behavior (CAB) Profile

The second idea we explored is around perception. Specifically, we tried to understand how the external world and out teams perceive us. The world (and that includes our teams) understand us through our CAB profiles.

CAB profiles are a direct manifestation of our ‘Scripts’

Our CABs are a reflection of what is called out ‘script’. The script is what gets manifested as our Communications, Actions and Behaviors (CAB). Our script is what defines us.

Our script is in turn developed over our lifetime through a combination of our Values, our Identities and our perception of Power. Each of these are powerful forces inside us. They define us and are so fundamental that they are difficult to change. Values, Identity and Power come to us from our parents, teachers and society. It is a unique combination of where we grow up, what early experiences we have, our personality types, and also our biases and and insecurities.

In summary, our CAB exposes our values, identities, and power in workplace. Our teams see us communicate, they observe our actions and watch out behaviors. To inspire the 21st century team, we need a different CAB profile.

Mindset 1, 2, and 3

Changing the CAB profile is not easy because we have to unlearn (and stop doing) a lot of things that we do now. And unconsciously our brain acts as a barrier to the change. As an abstract idea we have 3 mindsets.

  1. Reacting Mindset: The reactive mindset is the flight or fight mindset. This mindset is a shortcut to many things we do out of routine. But this is also the mindset where all our biases lie.
  2. Thinking Mindset: This thinking mindset has the power to think. But this thinking is short term and for the lack of a better word — cunning. The ‘thinking’ in this mindset typically happens in the same area in the brain which is used to process sensory signals. Thus our thinking is not the strongest when we are are also observing.
  3. Evolving Mindset: This mindset is the one with empathy and knowledge. This mindset is the one we need to counter the effects of Mindset 1 and 2. However, this mindset is difficult to sustain. The cognitive energy required to be in mindset 3 is very high. Years of evolution has taught us to reduce time spent in this mindset and default back to the earlier 2 mindsets.

Some of these ideas have been discussed in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman. There is good description of the book in this post by Ameet Ranadive

Reaching and Being in mindset 3

There is no direct prescription to being in mindset 3 but knowing why we get pulled into mindset 1 & 2 help. Some ideas that can help reaching and being in Mindset 3 are —

  • Being aware of own biases
  • Watching out of mindset 1 & 2 thinking
  • Developing Generosity and Empathy
  • Expressing vulnerability
  • Doing small experiments
  • Developing an explorer mindset
  • Taking time to think and introspect

Being in mindset 3 demands time and effort. Unfortunately without that effort the current leaders may not survive extinction.

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Saurav Chakravorty

Saurav Chakravorty

I am a data scientist solving some interesting problems in the industry. https://csaurav.online