Learn, Un-Learn, Re-Learn: Covid 19 Crisis a Good Time to Reflect the Way We Learn

March 31, 2020 by Tina Žagar

American writer Alvin Toffler said that: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This thinking fully resonates also with our understanding of learning, what it is and how it happens. In our view, learning is much more than simply transferring something that is known to someone who does not know. Such thinking might have applied in the past but nowadays things are moving so fast that knowledge quickly becomes out of date. What was relevant yesterday may no longer be relevant tomorrow. Instead we have to pay attention to what is happening in practice, adjust what we are doing, and often invent a response on the go. In this context, we understand learning as a complex process of engaging in activities, putting them into practice, and paying attention to the results.

This is something what we, at the CEF, are applying across all of our operations and it may not be surprising that we are sharing this notion that learning and knowledge sharing are crucial source of value creation and can be as such considered as strategic facilitators of change - that is also in the context of accelerating reform processes in countries of our constituency.

If we go one step backwards, I think we can all agree that the concept of knowledge management is nothing new. Organizations have always used knowledge management practices in different forms to find, understand, and use knowledge to achieve organizational goals and obviously also in search of increased performance. Often, however, this was not done in a deliberate and systematic manner. And it is precisely this awareness and conscious decision to introduce systematic and results-focused process for knowledge sharing and to manage knowledge in a holistic way that is new in providing major benefits for organizations while allowing them to achieve measurable results. With this in mind, it is not surprising that knowledge management is increasingly gaining importance also for governments in dealing with the challenges created by the knowledge economy.

Listening carefully to our constituency and going also through our own learning curve we can say that knowledge sharing is not a natural act in organizations. The ability to share knowledge as well as how to do it is not something that can be taken for granted. It needs a mental model change where a lot has to do with the need to change the attitude and behavior of the staff and the need to start creating a knowledge sharing culture within organizations. These efforts involve building and reinforcing organizational culture that promotes open-minded questioning, thoughtful listening, consideration of multiple options, and acceptance of opposing points of view. Getting an organization’s culture (including values and behaviors) ‘right’ for knowledge management is typically the most important and yet often the most difficult challenge.

To sum up, the knowledge management is first and foremost a people issue. The success of knowledge management initiatives depends upon people’s motivation, their willingness, and their ability to share knowledge and use the knowledge of others. Remembering this is even more important these days in a result-oriented culture and digitalized environment where we run the risk of focusing too much on screens and less on people. The essence of managing knowledge is concerned with deciding with whom to share, what is to be shared, how it is to be shared, and ultimately sharing and using it.