Unlearning in crisis: Forces of change in unlearning

Hafner, Julee
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The study of unlearning continues to be important, not only due to the relevance of the concept itself, but in light of current strong, unforeseen forces, knowledge change opportunities have been created beyond our prediction. A knowledge exchange is often needed to revise processes, use new technologies, or due to forces that stem from catastrophic situations. Examples include economic, such as in business failures or the recent public health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic. Building from new insights using the typological model from Rushmer and Davies (2004), deep unlearning may the end result of catastrophic forces of change. First, deep unlearning occurs with striking events, or yield change that adds anxiety, psychological, or technological upset. Second, inherent in many catastrophic changes are rapid interruptions in the trajectory of “previous” actions and unique processes toward recovery where knowledge base may be forever altered. We address the following question: “Is Rushmer and Davies’ deep unlearning typology exhibited during catastrophic situations?” This theoretical paper examines the concept of deep unlearning, the process of replacement or lack of use of a belief, action, or process in a context of an emergency situation where little is currently known. What type of agent for change would be needed? Will unintended consequences not be identified by individuals and organizations; what may be the cost to future learning skills when deep unlearning of current tasks occurs? Third, some insights and directions for future research are presented.
Innovation in Organizations: Learning, Unlearning, and Intentional Forgetting, crisis, deep unlearning, typological unlearning, unlearning
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