In three weeks, the infamous Cologne Carnival starts again.
For five days, the city will go completely crazy. Over 1 million people will come to celebrate.
Around midnight of the last evening, many Cologne bars carry out the “Nubbel burning” with great solemnity. Here, the numerous “sins” committed during the carnival days are loaded onto a straw doll – the Nubbel – and burned.
What most people don’t know is that the PIRATE Summit Burn is based on that century old tradition.
At the first PIRATE Summit, we started with just a doll. From there, the Burn grew up to an 8-meter tall wooden statue.
Over the years, we made this ritual our own. It became a symbol for rebirth, purification and renewal.
What may sound lofty and abstract has a very practical essence. And that essence is the theme for PIRATE Summit 2023.
#BurnToRelearn – Embracing the paradigm shift
Let me explain.
Socially, we’ve been conditioned towards the theme of constant learning. It is part of most leadership books. You better be a lifelong learner, to be successful – so the teaching goes. Also, the ‘learning organization’ – a concept coined through the work and research by Peter Senge – is a must-read concept in any MBA program. Continually learning is vital for business success.
And rightly so. Learning is the bedrock to survive in today’s VUCA world. It is an essential ingredient to what a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity requires: The ability to constantly transform and adapt.
However, learning is only one part of this success. It usually emphasizes “adding” something to what one knows. But in a changing world, learning should just as much be about subtracting. Something – so it seems – human beings aren’t good at.
Unlearning is the hard part of learning. It requires accepting that paradigms have shifted, and that what we once took for familiar and known, is no longer valid.
Unlearning is what is needed to make a society progress from today to a better tomorrow.
That’s why we have made unlearning central to this year’s PIRATE Summit: Celebrating this truth, PIRATE Summit 2023 encourages all to #BurnToRelearn.
Understanding unlearning and why it matters
We don’t always know whether what we learned is right or wrong. We must continually challenge what we consider truth. If humans weren’t actively unlearning, relearning, and continuously updating our knowledge, we’d still believe the earth is flat.
Also, unlearning is central in a world that is not static. What might have been right at one time may not serve its purpose anymore. What good is it today to know how to format a floppy disk?
In both of these cases, acknowledging the need to reverse course, and redirecting how we transform information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes is crucial. It’s not just changing one’s mind. Rather than forgetting or removing something from memory, we have to consciously choose an alternative model.
It is this conscious choice that illustrates the difference between learning and unlearning: When we learn, we add to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside our mental model and choose a different one.
Essentially, unlearning requires a paradigm shift! Only then can we create the possibility for something new to emerge.
Recognizing, Burning, Relearning
The good thing: The practice of unlearning can be developed in each of us. It comes in three phases: Recognize, Burn and Relearn.
- Unlearning requires us to realize, acknowledge and accept all the unconscious things we take for granted. How we think, what we say, and how we act. Making the unconscious conscious is hard (just ask what fish think about the water)!
- Once we have found acceptance, we can burn the old. The process of letting go is scary. It can seem like starting over again and losing our status, authority, or sense of self. This is why it’s so important, because we know that what has gotten us here won’t get us there.
- Relearning requires a state of wonder, an open and curious mind, accompanied by consistent implementation. It may involve a moment of nostalgia, grieving the life we had. The things we believed, what we thought was the “only” way things worked. This grief is outweighed by enthusiasm and the brave choice to try something different, as well as the understanding that each path can always be unlearned again.
#BurnToRelearn as an individual, and organization or society as a whole
Our theme of #BurnToRelearn is integral to our concept of creating impact from the individual outward. Individuals impact teams. Teams impact organizations. Organizations impact society.
On all levels, there is an opportunity to challenge what we learned and “know” to be true.
On an individual level, that might mean stripping away the beliefs and ways to act, live or behave that have been imposed on us through our parents, friends, education system or society at large.
In organizations, this means to question the “way we do things around here”. For example, the pandemic forced us to burn and relearn our old way of working, most notably the belief that people have to sit together in an office to get work done.
The same accounts for society. Challenges we face in climate, financial markets, or income inequality require collective unlearning.
#BurnToRelearn at PIRATE Summit 2023
Fire is the symbol of rebirth, hope and purification. We want to use PIRATE Summit 2023 to ignite a big fire with you. Together we’ll burn metaphorically and for real in June.
Let’s create a big moment and a signal for everyone to #BurnToRelearn. To let go of what is holding us back and recreate what is needed to move forward. Together.
We will announce more in the upcoming months.
Call for content: Do you want to host a session at PIRATE Summit?
Does #BurnToRelearn as a theme speak to you? Do you have a story, insight, or expertise that you’d like to contribute to PIRATE Summit this year? We have opened the call for content and welcome your contributions.
We are especially interested in deep insights, opinions that are controversial, experts that are not speaking at every conference, and grasping stories that are seldom told.
Send us your session ideas via the form on the website.