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  • Writer's pictureNanang Chalid

Unlearn and re-Learn: Why it does matter?

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

I recently moved to Tech, a new industry in my career, in a move that most of my friends considered as full of surprise. It is a high-risk move, considering I have actually established a very strong foothold in my previous seasoned FMCG-career, while Tech remains being perceived as new in Indonesia whereas stability is not its 'middle-name'. A close friend told me: It's like running a marathon, and when the finish line of my FMCG HR career is just on my reach, I suddenly decided to get out from the track and start another run as a rookie.

I shared to all my friends the reason why I decided to move: a sense of calling to contribute to the future of Indonesia as we enter the new digital economy (industry 4.0), and a self-disruptive move that pushed me to 'start from a scratch', unlearn and re-learn things to ensure I meet the world with both curiosity and humility -- two important traits of vulnerability that I believe that any leader must-have. So, with a leap of faith, I did it.

And after almost one month, it is indeed challenging. Unlearning all the things I knew from my consumer goods experience, to immerse myself in the new industry, is not a walk in the park. I have to unlearn so many things: as simple as understanding that instead of annual-revenue business as your key metrics, eCommerce key metrics is monthly-users and how it's should keep growing instead. With unlearning, comes re-learning. And I never learn this much in the last few years (as I kept meeting the 'unfamiliars' vs the 'familiars' in my previous jobs).

My wife is an amateur painter, and she once taught me to paint, and her first lesson for me was to make sure that I used the right brush to do the right stroke I wanted. Her best painting so far was the impasto, and it was made with an entirely different approach than the pop-art ones, with a different mix of brush, color paints, and mixes. And that was the analogy of my world right now, as I must understand which brush I have to use to paint my new world in Tech.

And as the experience of unlearning and re-learning was very useful, hence, I want to distill those insights and share it into today's blog on "why it does matter?", and appeal to any HR Business Partners or any Business Leaders to create and find their own "unlearn and re-learn" opportunity, even within their current roles :

It gives you a new perspective.

When you are a Leader, your decision will impact dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people who work (and will work) with your organization. A great practical and relevant idea both to solve current "big-now" problems and anticipate future "big-next" challenges are the key to mobilizing people around you to make or break in your industry. Example: I am blessed to unlearn and relearn myself recently in the recruitment space. With huge acceleration in fast-growing Tech sectors, my team did what I called the "bush fire" approach in recruitment by tapping as many as possible universities and recruiting 'local jewels' from those campuses through so many initiatives. It successfully brought in many untapped talents versus the typical "top-university recruitment" strategy where companies were actually 'playing safe' with this approach hoping that getting these top-notch students will solve the issues. What my team did was counter-intuitive. They addressed the long-tails, and it helps us brighten the lives of these untapped pools of talents from what has been perceived as the 'underdogs campuses'. My team has done counter-intuitive things that any mainstream company does, and it's worth it: time to fill is relatively shorted, diversity of talents are ticked, and purposefully, we help level up the opportunity for Indonesian 'underdogs talents' to enter the Tech workplace.

I learn a very important lesson from my team:

"Be counter-intuitive, embrace the new perspective"

It taught you to be vulnerable, and hence the courage to start and experiment.

In my first 2-weeks, I came to any meetings with my team and Business Leaders with unconscious pretension that "I knew stuff" --- and start telling them: " Listen to me, here is how we should do things...". I am blessed to hit roadblocks and learn that things from the past might not be the best solution for now and the future. I quickly tell myself to stop 'playing-smart', and be humble to listen and understand before sharing my thoughts and giving advice. There is a feeling of being inconvenient, as in my previous industry, all my thinking and thoughts were mostly hitting bulls-eyes and easily implemented, while in my new role, I realized that "I don't know what I don't know".

In the last 2-weeks, I decided to change my approach to listen even more, and only share my view and thoughts when I see the relevance. And with that, I keep coming across as vulnerable, but through those vulnerabilities comes the co-creation. And in that co-creation, comes the courage to start and experiment.

Example: During my 1-on-1s with business leaders and seeing employees' feedback, I learned that there are opportunities where we can make things better. I tried to bring in my "old-repository of solutions" to the case, and I was a bit frustrated to see that the puzzle pieces didn't match. So I changed my perspective and listened more to my team, and finally, I understood the bigger picture. With the help of my senior leadership team, we are now experimenting on how we approach Employee Experience (EX), and bring in the right expertise to crack it, and aspired to make it 'high-touch' and 'high-tech' at the same time. It's still early in the journey, but I can sense the energy in cracking this together.

I learn a very important lesson from my team:

"Be humble and relevant (not be the smartest guy in the room), and experiment together"

It reminds you that it is not about "you", it's about your team.

As much as we know the theory, it is not in our habit to 'put our team first and myself second'. I was coming with an ambition to prove myself. And as the story told through the above, it is actually an unwise thing to do. Third week onward in my onboarding, I keep telling myself every day that "Today, I will learn, and see how I can make my team better and more successful". I start to dig out the trench, and sit there together in several operational matters: be it in designing organization for the new business where we use business model canvass to start with, discussing performance calibration mechanism and identify pain points and opportunity going forward, discussing manpower planning, planning for learning and development agenda of the year and align it further with business needs (hence, build business ownership at the same time), discussing how we should take our employer brand to the next level, looking at how we looking at reward and compensation using Total Reward framework and make the team aspired to have a strategic roadmap on it, looking at HR product tech roadmap and see how we should prioritize for impact, and lastly, championing the building up of HR mastery through development and capability building myself.

On the last topic of developing the capability of your team, here is a call-to-action to all HR and Business Leaders: Your team's Mastery is in your hands.

To ensure the team is up in supporting the business, I decided to champion the development of the functional skills for the team myself. We launched a learning engagement platform (we called it 'People College' and '24-hours People Partner' Acceleration). We also aim to make sure that by the end of the whole program, the team is ready for the certification, so it leaves a timeless mark in their professional credentials as HR professionals. As per the plan, every 2-weeks, there will be a learning event run for the whole team, including the interns. These are the least I can do as their Leader, to ensure I leave a legacy to my team as individuals -- with hope, it will inspire my fellow Leaders to do the same for their team, hence, making the impacts bigger for the whole company. The reason I also pushed myself to champion my own team's learning is so that I will be reminded (at least) every 2-weeks, that what I do every day is not about "me", it's all about my team.

I learn a very important lesson from my team:

"Be in service for your team, and remember that it is not about "you", it's about "them".

Hope this self-reflection is useful for any HR or Business Leaders out there: both who are currently in the journey of self-disrupting themselves by taking on new challenges/new roles or those who still love your current role and want to do things differently to keep you learning despite your present context.

Keep unlearn and re-learn

Just like painting: different brush can only be relevant to be used for different type of painting. Unlearn and re-learn helps Leader not to use "one-size fits all" approach, hence made them continue to be relevant through new perspective, held them to be humble, vulnerable and hence become courageous to experiment, and remind them all that its not about "him/her" but about the team,

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