Are We Prepared to Manage Ourselves?

The disinterested look on her face and constant yawning made it apparent she was not with us by choice.

Unlike the others in the workshop who came across as being keen to learn more about our subject of community leadership, she was definitely not an engaged participant. I later heard she had been told to attend the training.

Clearly not a good choice for either her or the organization that sent her, it reinforced for me that it’s never a good idea to send people to courses they don’t want to go to.

Until an individual sees the need for growth, no true learning is ever going to occur. On the other hand, people do develop and change when they feel responsible for their own progress. 

If you are like me and have experienced learning something new as the result of being passionate about the subject matter, that probably won’t be news to you.

Unfortunately the reality is that for the most part our education systems and workplaces have encouraged us to believe that someone else is responsible for our learning and growth. Many still believe it is someone else’s job to tell them what they need to get better at, and how to do it.

However, because the pace of change is faster and more complex than in the past, it’s necessary for every one of us to think about the implications of changes and challenges and how they will impact our organizations, businesses, and communities. Unlike previous shifts in history, changes are occurring faster than we ever could have imagined. 

To survive in this world of continuous change, it isn’t going to be enough to sign up ourselves or others for training sessions. Instead we will need to embrace responsibility for our own learning and growth and ultimately manage ourselves.

American business guru Peter F. Drucker put it this way, “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time - literally - substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”
To get prepared for it, chances are we’ll need to unlearn our old ways before new theories, concepts, and approaches can be successfully identified and learned. And, we’re going to have to do this in a much quicker fashion.

Unlearning and new learning is going to be necessary if we are to deal with complicated issues in our communities especially because experts suggest that it takes an estimated 17 years for only 14% of new scientific discoveries to enter day to day practice and become commonplace. Adapting to change will need to be done much faster if we are to counteract the rising costs of physical inactivity, obesity and chronic disease; an aging population; declining civic engagement; ensure environmental protection; reduce crime, and improve economic activity.

As the reluctant workshop participant was likely reflecting, unlearning and new learning can be scary and counter-intuitive. Even more challenging will be the need to teach ourselves and each other how to unlearn and absorb new learnings at the same time. Our ability to learn how to do so will be the difference between surviving and thriving. Years ago, Alvin Toffler, the noted futurist and author of “Future Shock,” wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.”

My guess is that the woman who attended our workshop considers herself to be pretty literate.  However, she might just find herself to be in a heap of trouble if she doesn’t see the value in taking responsibility for being future ready by managing her own personal growth and development. That also means she will need to be committed to unlearning and relearning.

Posted on 03-18-12


I was quite taken with this quote:  “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.”  Now THAT is definitely food for thought.  Thanks, Brenda!

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  03/19/12  at  12:23 PM


Unfortunately, much of the MIT coursework that is currently online lacks essential materials, such as exams, exam answers (exams are not much good if they can’t be scored), and many still require the purchase of an expensive textbook, if you can even find it. There are a few notable exceptions, however.(I am aware that the presence of exams is somewhat controversial, but some colleges and universities allow the use of previous exams in study),I admit that my brief survey of coursework was limited to such areas as physics and mathematics. This situation may not be true of other fields of study.

•Posted by Milton  on  08/07/12  at  04:17 PM

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