After coming to graduate school, I quickly realize that I must continuously contemplate my process and values in design in order to align myself with the kind of designer and person I strive to be. This calls for the Cycle of Unlearning, a methodical three-step approach to individual and collective growth developed by Barry O’Reilly, author of Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results. This cycle involves conscious effort in identifying and continuously adapting our behaviors, drivers, biases and routines in the pursuit of innovative work. A prevalent and repeated message in the workplace is that of urgency. The motion and gaining of immediate results is often mistaken for progress and successful methods. O’Reilly claims, “Many leaders never have time to just think—to deeply consider problems and potential alternative options. As a result, they implement tactical, point solutions that optimize short-term business efficiency and revenue capture, but ultimately lose sight of the bigger vision, challenges, and experiences…” (O'Reilly, 15).
To apply the concept of unlearning to the practice of visual design, designers cannot rely past models of success for future paths to innovation and productivity. We cannot sleepwalk through work that feels burdensome. Instead, we must approach what motivates us and what we can accomplish through contemplation and explorative creativity. This is not calling for a decrease in productivity or motivation, but, instead, a more thoughtful and purposeful approach to gaining productivity and motivation. O’Reilly writes, “The first step in the Cycle of Unlearning requires courage, self-awareness, and humility to accept that your own beliefs, mindsets, or behaviors are limiting your potential and current performance that you must consciously move away from” (O’Reilly 19). (see source and link at bottom of this page)
Below are key steps I have taken in the process of unlearning and adapting my values as I strive to become a better designer, teammate, friend, colleague and overall person.
Barry O'Reilly, Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results