That admonition comes from the famous dialog between Luke and Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. It goes like this:
Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
Those final four words—There is no try—have become part of the business lexicon, as leaders exhort their teams to take action. There is only “DO”, they say, there is no try. Make a decision and get on it!
When reading this short conversation slowly and deliberately, I see that the take-away is not what we think it is. Yoda says “unlearn what you have learned.” That is Yoda’s wisdom: unlearn what you have learned.
One must unlearn what they have learned in order to grow, change, invent, innovate, inspire and lead.
We’ve attempted unlearning with practices such as brainstorming, master minds, and peer groups. The theory with these approaches is that a group with various perspectives will shake the old learning loose and generate fresh ideas.
What if you could instead unlearn what you have learned simply by looking to your own imagination: your hunches, your gut feelings, your creativity, unleashed? If you didn’t require a process or methodology, established best practices or a facilitator?
I’ll never forget the moment about 25 years ago, when I had a hunch. I designed a simple 3-week experiment to test the hunch. I collected data during the experiment, and after three weeks, I analyzed the data. I rolled out a new approach based on the data I collected during the experiment. From time to time I made minor adjustments to the approach based on observable customer behavior. Over the following three years, that hunch, experiment and new approach paid off exponentially.
The process of hunch, experiment, and roll-out with minor modifications, has been the foundation of my consulting work ever since. My book Tinker: How Smart Business Owners Develop Creative Ideas for True Growth recounts my “soup story” and the 3-T Model that captures the sequence for all businesses to use: Trust It, Try It, Tinker.
If I had not unlearned what I had learned—the theories, processes and methodologies—during my MBA studies, and from assorted other organizations, I would not have worked with hundreds of companies to increase revenue by billions of dollars. I unlearned what I had learned and have spent a lot of time trying.
Here’s my takeaway after 20 years: It’s the trying that teaches the lessons and creates success.
What are you going to try, today and every day?