Learn, unlearn and relearn to get your message across

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Learn, unlearn and relearn to get your message across


The communicator: Gina London
The communicator: Gina London

‘Isn’t this all just a little ‘happy clappy'”?

That’s the line this past week, folks, from my new favourite chief executive client. We were working together on a presentation he was to make in the UK. I had just encouraged him to intentionally smile and raise his eyebrows as he rehearsed his opening remarks. To which he politely expressed his lack of enthusiasm about, er, actively demonstrating enthusiasm.

So, we video recorded him delivering as he normally would. Then we recorded him a second time as he layered on my suggested intentional body language techniques. We replayed his two introduction clips back-to-back. The contrast was instantly noticeable. Especially to my client.

“It really makes a difference,” he said after watching them. It’s important to note that he delivered the same words each time. But the clip in which he engaged his facial expressions in a purposeful way was, you guessed it, more engaging. This, dear readers, is an example of the process of what’s known as “learning, unlearning and relearning”.

This notion was first made famous by futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” he wrote.

In short, when the way you are doing something is not producing the desired result, it’s likely time to make way for new insights and ideas. Obviously with the pace and advancements of technology, this concept is even more fully embraced today.

For more on this, I turned to Alberto Mattiello, a Miami-based professor of digital innovation at the Bocconi University, and lecturer at the Imperial College of London. He’s also the author of Marketing Thinking and Mind The Change, and a thought-provoking keynote speaker whom I had the opportunity to have dinner with in Budapest last month.

He stresses that “all too often we are operating within thinking frameworks that have become obsolete. Obviously, unlearning doesn’t mean simply forgetting. It’s about choosing an alternative mentality”.

1 Relearn how to be more human when you present

Now, of course, Mattiello is predominantly applying this to business and technology models. When I suggest this is what my CEO is doing as a new way to approach presentations, I may be being over simplistic. But think about it. When we learn, we add new knowledge or skills to what we already know. When we unlearn, we get rid of an old thinking model so that we can select a new one.

Your old thinking model may be that the information you are about to present is enough. But that isn’t the case. When you, as a live human being, are in a room with other live human beings, you become the presentation. It isn’t enough to simply inform, you must connect. You need to unlearn your old approach to better engage. This requires relearning how to layer vocal variety as I outlined last week, powerful story-telling and emotional body language indicators.

2 Relearn how to better engage employees

This second point about relearning is incredibly poignant to me. Too often, I hear people say, “Oh, this soft-skills stuff is just for presentations”. Wrong. It is vital that we relearn how to actively deal and collaborate with people all the time.

As Mattiello points out: “The way we work is changing at the speed of light. I know for a fact that a large part of the information my students learn their first year becomes outdated by the time they graduate. The same is true for work environment. With the huge leap in development that AI will make within the next few years, many of the today’s redundant tasks will become obsolete. So, the best thing companies can do is to help their employees develop the new set of skills that will help them deal with the uncertainty and fast-paced world.”

Get this: he’s talking about those so-called “soft-skills” such as intuition, learning agility, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, sense-making and connecting the dots.

These are the skills that will be required in the future by companies that want to attract and retain the best talent.

Fortunately, Mattiello sees Ireland as taking a step in the right direction. “I know that there are companies, including governmental institutes, that actively offer promotion, mentoring, advice and even financial support and grants for startups looking to come to Ireland. This is a very smart move and it already has a real impact on Ireland’s tech scene, education and, obviously, work environment,” he says.

3 Relearn your communication approaches from bottom to top

As Mattiello explains, there is a strong shift happening with companies going from being profit-driven to purpose-driven.

“In today’s world people are tired of empty claims and marketing tactics. Brands should take a long, hard look at how they communicate and what is it that drives them. If brands want to survive, they will have to create strong and long-lasting relationships with their customers.”

To build these relationships in the future, brands, CEOs and anyone wanting to make a difference really will have to communicate more authentically.

That’s not happy clappy. That’s relearning. With purpose.

  • Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of [email protected]

Sunday Indo Business

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