A few months ago, I had an interaction with a writer from Harvard Business Review, Mark Bonchek, that shifted my way of thinking. In less than 120 characters, his words penetrated my mental models on learning and human development in way that I am still exploring.
With this in mind, the question that I would like to explore is: Have we focused too much on learning and not enough on unlearning?
The question has been on my mind because the management and leadership development industry is $24.5 billion industry, yet some people argue that this industry has failed tremendously (Stanford Business: Why the Leadership Industry Has Failed). Additionally, a 2016 report by Bloomberg shows that there is a “skills gap” with leadership skills being less common to find in business school graduates.
I am only 25, yet I am tired of seeing articles on the Top 10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader, 5 Leadership Skills You Must Have to Succeed, 7 Traits of True Leaders, 30 Ways to Define Leadership, 9 Leadership Qualities, and etc.
These articles make me wonder if we, as a society, we have poured our money into a leadership development models that focus too much on quick learning and too little on unlearning. What if, instead of these recipes for quick learning, we need to reflect on what we may need to unlearn in order to advance?
Once upon a time, I thought that I would be a clinical counselor. I entertained this thought with some graduate classes in social work only to realize that it was not the right fit for me, and I ended the program without the degree but with a new respect for social workers. Now, as I build upon my consulting experiences, I cannot help but wonder: Can the practices of social work be applied to consulting?
To begin to explore this, I went back to my bookshelf and pulled down the Generalist Social Work Practice: An Empowering Approach by Miley, O’Melia, and DuBois (2013). In this book, eight practice principles are emphasized:
I then attempted to put these principles in the context of the relationship between the client and the consultant, and it looked something like this:
While this may be a stretch for some, I welcome any insight to help me explore this question in more depth.
A few months ago when I created my twitter account (@MikeSchiro), I was geeking out over the amount of company information available to the public. I started shooting off tweets with articles or links to company pages when I stumbled across a confusing interaction.
I tweeted a visual that was posted on a company’s twitter account only to notice that it was soon taken down. I was perplexed because it gained popularity in less than an hour, and over 100 people already viewed it. Why would this company take this down if it was just starting to gain momentum?
I waited for the company to re-post the visual, so I could retweet it again. I had no luck. The visual never emerged again, and this interaction leads me to the questions that I want to explore: Is there a greater value in letting go of intellectual property or holding onto it?
To start answering these questions, I began looking into organizations that have publicly released large portions of their IP to promote growth in their target market. Telsa Motors was the first company to come to mind with their release of their patents (“All Our Patent Are Belong to You“). They argued that the release of their rights to the patents would strengthen their position in the market rather than diminish it. It was a risky strategic move, but stocks jumped shortly afterwards. Tesla created value by letting go.
While this example of letting go is focused on patents, similar strategic challenges will be faced by senior leaders who have strong competitors. The internet of things and Web 2.0 technologies have increased the ability to share information across any population, and, as a result, there will be a need to more closely define what information is retained from their competitors. Perhaps this was the challenge faced by the company who posted the visual only to quickly remove it.