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Barry O’Reilly on the Power of Unlearning

Published: August 15, 2022


What is the concept of unlearning?

Unlearning, as a word, may sound like backsliding. The term feels indicative of losing hard earned knowledge but, in reality, it’s a vital part of the continuous learning environment every tech organization is seeking to achieve. There is a trend in the tech space of failing fast, thereby understanding what didn’t work for your teams in order to better determine what will work. Barry prefers to look at this as, “learning fast”. It’s not repetition of failure that drives success, but rather seeking to learn quickly what channels, messages, and processes will lead to success for you and your teams. 


“Learning is an act of vulnerability. You have to recognize that you don’t know all the answers. It’s the pursuit of the correct answer that is actually the noble path.” -Barry O’Reilly

Unlearning is not forgetting removing or discarding your knowledge or experience. It’s the conscious act of letting go of outdated information and actively taking in new information to inform your decision making in action. You don’t forget the things that led to previous success, but rather you actively focus on removing the concepts that are no longer applicable or may be limiting your growth potential. Much like a professional golfer will break down and rebuild their swing with a new coach, technologists can build more pertinent skills without forgetting the building blocks that helped them reach prior successes.