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To Unlearn or Not to Unlearn

May 25, 2011

“I don’t believe in this whole ‘unlearning’ thing,” At the beginning of any session, I usually ask each participant if there is one thing they think I should know before I proceed. The trainer/help desk responder looked up at me and smiled. Apparently, this was something they thought I should know. I didn’t bristle or shift my grin. Like any good consultant, I kept my mouth shut and listened.

“It’s not like the job of the legal assistant is going to change that much once they get Word 2010,” they explained. “They still have to do the same work, updating documents, keeping calendars up-to-date, that sort of stuff. They don’t have to ‘unlearn’ everything.”

You know? They have a point.

Just because we have a new car doesn’t mean our route to work changes. However, it may provide more comfort on the trip and a bit more speed. Adapting to a new technology does not change the fundamental nature of our professions. I still get to listen to the experience of a wide variety of people, advise folks on how to make more money using new software, and write blog entries. Does using Word 2010, or any word processor, really affect how well I do those tasks?

Sure. You bet.

The ideas don’t come to my mind any more quickly. Getting clients to clearly articulate what they really need isn’t simpler. I’ve found that small improvements from Word 2007, like contextual spell check do improve the quality of my output, making me look a little better to the public and making my editor’s life that much easier. It’s the little things that count.

If we’re talking about improvements from Word Pad or WordPerfect 4.1, elements like styles, easier to use numbering, better print layout, new file formats, etc. All of those things have made a huge impact on the speed and quality of my work, but only because I’ve learned to “unlearn.”

Trying to use Word as if it were that perennial favorite WordPerfect 5.1 would only slow me down and decrease the quality of my work. Codes no longer matter to me, nor do proprietary print drivers or any other cool technology from the early 90’s. I’ve let go and moved on. I’m not going to hobble myself by keeping that new car in first gear.

So while my route hasn’t changed, I plan on using the turbo on my hypothetical new vehicle. I’ll take the top down and turn the stereo up. I’ll figure out the fancy new GPS and how to sync my iPhone for the built- in speaker phone. Why wouldn’t I use all those new tools to make my life better? It’s the major reason I bought the car, after all.

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