Thursday, September 6, 2012

What I am working on today - unlearning

I consider myself to be a lifelong learner.  I can never read enough or write enough to suit myself.  I love learning new things.  But I've had some difficulty with unlearning.  One of the most profound and commonly overlooked aspects of my quest for new learning has been my recognizing the need to  unlearn some things. Over 30 years in the Navy, I acquired knowledge, beliefs or positions that but for the protection of my own ego, I would have to admit are outdated and "old school".
Sometimes, the hardest thing for me to change has been my own mind.  I know that smart Navy leaders recognize it’s much more valuable to step across mental rhumblines on a chart than to draw them. Here’s the deal: None of us has all the answers, so why even attempt to pretend that we do? Show me a Navy leader that never changes their mind, and I’ll show you a static thinker who has confined his mind to the correctional custody unit (CCU) of mediocrity and thoroughly wasted potential.
Some of the smartest Sailors I know are the most willing to change their minds. They don’t have to be right every time, they just want the right outcome — they want to learn, grow, develop, and mature - and take as many other Sailors on the journey with them. Exposing yourself to alternate opinions allows you to refine your good ideas, weed out the bad ideas and acquire new ideas.
A Navy leader's ability to change their mind demonstrates humility, confidence and maturity. It makes them approachable, and it makes them human. Our Sailors are looking for authentic, leaders who are willing to sacrifice their ego (collar devices) in favor of right thinking.
Hang on, I think I just changed my mind.


Sean Heritage said...

Great post! I love that you are migration toward more original content. I did my best at each command indoc to help those under our charge to begin the unlearning process. Boot Camp and "A" School have their focus and for good reason, but the "do what you are told" mentality is dangerous in many work centers. We all should be strong and confident enough to periodically question our convictions...

CWO4 Brian L. Ashpole, USN-Retired said...

A wise department head once told me that every Officer and Chief Petty Officer should take an Introduction to Philosophy course.

I didn't understand why until I took the course.

That department head was Captain Ed Williamson.

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

The ideas you express in this post are good ideas, but one has to insure that they temper these ideas that they might have about change and unlearning with what is realistic for the time, the mission and their sworn duty. Those are the things we signed on the dotted line to uphold and we should always endeavor to stay within those guidelines, of course, change over time will occur to correct for new innovations, new technology, new strategies and even new idiotic ideas, which must be adhered to or you will suffer. Change for change’s sake has never been the proper way to go though some advocate that, the same applies to unlearning, nearly 50 years ago I was forced to change, and unlearn many of the procedures, methods and troubleshooting techniques that I had depended on to repair fire control equipment for the last 10 years. I had students over the next few years, some senior to myself that were required to unlearn any number of things that had been a mainstay in their tools to repair and maintain electronic fire control equipment. Some old Shipmates during those years could not force themselves to understand the concept of modular replacement rather than isolating the problem to an individual component within that module.

I have strayed from what the post addressed, which was Navy policy rather than material and maintenance, but whether the overall problem is pointing toward Navy equipment, Navy personnel, Navy ships or Navy policy, the same exists in my mind, change those things that are outdated or outmoded, but do not change things for change sake. The same applies to unlearning and I would appreciate your listing of a number of things that you felt you had to unlearn in order to do justice to your Navy career.

Very Respectfully,