Unlearning in the workplace : a mixed methods study

Becker, Karen Louise (2007) Unlearning in the workplace : a mixed methods study. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Contemporary organisations face a raft of challenges in coping with competing demands and rapidly changing environments. With these demands and changes comes the need for those within the organisation to be adequately skilled to meet these challenges both now and into the future. There is a growing concern that the rate of change is such that learning will not be sufficient and that individuals will need to be skilled in unlearning or letting go of past practice and behaviour.

This research investigated individual unlearning as it applies in the workplace, and enabled the development of a process model of unlearning that provides specific indication of factors affecting unlearning during times of change.

In particular, this thesis highlights the critical importance of elements of a more personal and affective nature; often referred to as "soft" issues. Six key factors at the level of the individual were identified as impacting unlearning; positive prior outlook, individual inertia, feelings and expectations, positive experience and informal support, understanding the need for change, and assessment of the new way.

Two factors emerged from the organisational level that also impact unlearning; organisational support and training and history of organisational change. Many change efforts will fail because of lack of attention to individuals, how they unlearn and the level of feelings and expectations that accompany change. This research demonstrates that organisations must provide resources and education to provide both those in supervisory roles and those impacted by change with the necessary skills to unlearn and to embrace change at an individual level.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16574
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Delahaye, Brian & Spencer, Fiona
Keywords: unlearning, learning, adult learning, organisational learning, workplace learning, resistance to change, change, organisational change, innovation, individual inertia, organisational culture, organisational memory, explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge, frames of reference, transitions
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Karen Louise Becker
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:06
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 08:17

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