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Edition 16

Are You Brave Enough to Unlearn?


Embracing the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset in Leadership –

The Cycle of Unlearn, Learn, and Re-learn

Adapt2Digital – Modern-Minded Leadership , Mel Ross (Scott-Taylor) , CB Bowman-Ottomanelli Courageous Leadership EXPERT , Ramez Helou

Dear Readers,

As we continue our exploration of modern leadership, this edition focuses on a vital component of our series: the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset. Integrating insights from previous discussions, we cover the concept of Unlearn, Learn, and Re-learn, essential for any leader navigating today’s dynamic environment.

The Essence of the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset

The Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset is crucial in our rapidly evolving business landscape. It embodies agility, the readiness to pivot in response to change, and the capacity to thrive amid uncertainty. This mindset goes beyond adaptability; it’s about fostering curiosity and critical thinking to understand and navigate complex challenges.

Why It Matters

In a world where change is the only constant, leaders who cultivate an Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset are invaluable. They bring flexibility in strategy and planning, effective communication across teams, and a willingness to embrace new challenges and roles. This approach is particularly vital in the context of the transition from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0, where the blend of human creativity with machine intelligence is reshaping our industries.

The Cycle of Unlearning, Learning, and Re-learning

At the heart of the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset is a continuous evolution:

  • Unlearn: Letting go of outdated methods and traditional mindsets that no longer serve in the current context.
  • Learn: Embracing new approaches, technologies, and strategies that align with contemporary needs.
  • Re-learn: Continuously refining and updating one’s skills and knowledge to stay relevant and effective.

My  Personal Story

I want to share a personal narrative that illuminates the profound journey of unlearning and re-learning, especially as a seasoned executive.

After years in the corporate world, working for two companies with similar methods and philosophies, I found myself as a mid-50-year-old executive with set ways of thinking and doing. My frame of reference was fixed, and new perspectives often seemed irrelevant or strange.

The Challenge of Unlearning

The most daunting phase was unlearning. It required dismantling years of established thinking patterns and practices. I had to step back and critically evaluate the building blocks of my thought process, questioning what I knew and how I applied it. The realization that solutions I once considered innovative were now outdated was a turning point.

Humbling Journey of Learning Anew

The unlearning phase for senior executives like me is often the hardest part. But once I crossed that hurdle, the process of learning again became an enriching experience. It was humbling to learn from others, especially from younger generations. Their fresh perspectives, different worldviews, and modern solutions were not just eye-opening but incredibly effective in today’s world.

Embracing the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset

This journey taught me the essence of the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset. It’s about being agile, pivoting quickly in response to change, and thriving amid uncertainty. More than that, it’s about fostering curiosity and critical thinking to understand and navigate complex challenges. It’s a continuous cycle of unlearning outdated methods, learning new approaches, and re-learning to stay relevant

Why This Matters

In a world of constant change, the ability to unlearn old paradigms and re-learn new ones is vital. It allows leaders like us to remain agile, responsive, and innovative. It’s not just about adapting to change – it’s about leading the change. I am not alone, nor my generation. This can extend to all generations that have their own challenges in adapting and adopting a beginner mindset.

Generational Perspectives: Emily, David, and Elon Musk

  1. Emily – The Millennial Innovator Unlearns traditional approaches, embracing new methodologies. Learns by staying abreast of the latest trends. Re-learns by refining her skills and understanding that learning is an ongoing journey.
  1. David – The Transforming Baby Boomer Unlearns initial resistance to change, adopting new practices. Learns through active engagement with digital tools. Re-learns by evolving his leadership style to match the changing business landscape.
  1. Elon Musk – The Quintessential Visionary Unlearns by challenging conventional industry norms. Learns at the forefront of technological innovation. Re-learns by adapting his knowledge to new ventures like SpaceX and sustainable energy technologies.

Self-Reflection: Your Leadership Style

As you embark on or continue your journey with the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset, self-reflection is a critical tool. It helps you assess your current standing and identify areas for growth.

1. Comfort with Ambiguity: How do you react when faced with situations that lack clarity? Are you able to proceed confidently despite not having all the answers?

2. Flexibility in Strategy: When plans change abruptly, how do you adapt your strategies? Are you rigidly tied to your plans, or can you pivot effectively?

3. Collaborative Communication: Evaluate your communication style. Is it inclusive and conducive to collaboration across different teams and perspectives?

4. Openness to Unlearn: Reflect on how you handle outdated practices. Are you open to questioning and discarding methods that no longer serve their purpose?

5. Zeal for Learning: How do you approach new information and skills? Do you actively seek out learning opportunities, even outside your comfort zone?

6. Re-learning Approach: After learning something new, how do you integrate it into your existing knowledge base? Do you regularly update your skills and strategies?

7. Teachability Index: Consider how teachable you are. Are you open to feedback and willing to learn from others, regardless of their age or position?

Practical Strategies for Cultivating This Mindset

  1. Embrace Incremental Change: Aim to introduce a small, 1% change in your leadership practice daily. This could involve adopting new technologies, trying out different management techniques, or simply approaching problems from a fresh perspective.
  2. Deepen Decision-Making Awareness: Reflect on your decision-making processes. Are they rooted in past experiences, or do you endeavor to view situations with fresh eyes?
  3. Comfort with Uncertainty: Practice being comfortable with ambiguity. Embrace change, adapt quickly to new circumstances, and view these as opportunities for growth and learning.


Our capacity to thrive in uncertainty, adapt to new scenarios, and maintain an openness to continuous learning are crucial for success. The Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset is not merely a skill but a necessary evolution in our leadership journey.

Join Us Next Time

Stay tuned for our next discussion, where we’ll explore more mindsets from the “Seven Mindsets for Modern Leadership.”

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For an in-depth understanding of the Adaptive Beginner’s Mindset and the Unlearn, Learn, and Re-learn concept, refer to chapters 7 and 8 of “Reimagining Leadership.