Dear Colleagues!  This is Pharma Veterans Blog Post #228. Pharma Veterans shares the wealth of knowledge and wisdom of Veterans for the benefit of Pharma Community. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. If you wish to share your stories, ideas and thoughts, please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Unlearning and Learning

Learning is always incremental. It starts as soon as the senses start sensing and mind starts processing the sensory information. Learning initially occurs through touch, view and hearing. Reading comes much later.

Children are like sponge. They have enormous capacity to absorb and it is naturally intended. They keep absorbing unbelievable amount of information from an extremely large number of sources. For them everything is new. Most of this learning is natural and ‘undirected’. As soon as the elders can, they start directing children. And By God, it is too much direction. ‘Do this’ and ‘Don’t do this’ is part of every sentence. If Children would take these directives seriously, they would be seriously handicapped by age five. It is Allah’s Will that they don’t bother with these. There is some research that says that children do not process commands which start with No and Don’t. This is their built-in defense mechanism against the excessive negation of adults.

Most pre-school learning is a mixed bag; without order and organization. School learning is organized because it follows a curriculum.

Social learning is a continuous process which keeps happening during entire life time.

Unlearning is an integral part of learning process. The capacity to learn expands with unlearning. However, unlearning is also as highly variable as learning. It is not easy to make people learn; it is not easy to make people unlearn. Sometimes unlearning is so difficult that it severely hinders new learning.

Some such situations vis-à-vis Pharma Work Life are described here. Unlearning is required here Urgently and Immediately.

  • Salesmanship – salespeople have most bizarre and impossible ideas about selling and salesmanship. These ideas are not based on training; rather due to lack of it. Some consider it a ‘supernatural’ power through which you can make the customer do anything you ask him to do. Some consider it an extreme form of humility where the salesperson should be on his knees all the time; obsequious and begging. Some more daring people consider it to be actually ‘conmanship’; just like Double Shah who can make fool out of hundreds of people. There are yet others who firmly believe it is an ‘art form’ and one has to be born with the talent to become a real salesperson.

These and other ideas like these need Urgent Unlearning. In the presence of this junk, any reasonable and logical new learning is not possible.

  • Management – managers also have some very unique ideas about management, some of which they probably ‘learnt’ from their seniors. Management is ‘Divine Responsibility’ and should be carried out religiously. Management is being a Big Brother (we discussed in the previous blogs) and the junior, little brothers must be taken care of. These managers are very fond of calling everyone ‘Baita’. It gets funny when a 28-year-old is calling a 26-year-old ‘son’. Management is ‘Power’. And power should be exercised like it should be. There should be no apology in using power because it is given to you. Management is ‘leadership’. And leaders are the same, be it a political leader or management leader.

Ideas such as these are to be Unlearned, to make way for better things.

  • Work Ethics – All is Fair in Love, War and Sales. Welcome to the new language. Ethics is whatever you can get away with. As long as you are not caught, it is ethical. And if you get caught, it is still ok because everyone is doing it; no need to feel ashamed. The biggest ethic is not to have any ethic. Work should be judged by the outcome, not by means. It is ok to push others in order to move ahead. It is ok to lie, cheat, hurt, deceive, defraud, rob, kill to get your own objectives.

Such learning about Work Ethics needs to be Unlearned.

In our society, Unlearning is needed firstly because there is an abundance of distorted learning. New learning does not necessarily correct old, wrong learning. In many cases, it does not replace the old ones. Secondly, Unlearning is required to make space for new learning.

Unlearning is generally more difficult than new learning. While new learning may be helped by books, teachers, trainers; erasing old learning has to be done by the individual himself. This is our challenge.


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