Reach for the STARS

A framework for unlearning management wisdoms

What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered that your most cherished management wisdoms turned out to be wrong?

How would you, how would your organisation, deal with this change? These are questions experts at the University of Sydney Business School have been grappling with, articulating the idea of unlearning.

Many of the management wisdoms we see in the daily life of modern organisations have been outdated for some time. The replication crisis in social psychology has highlighted how many of the established theories we rely on in curriculum and in organisations become misappropriated, discredited, debunked, or are no longer context appropriate as the world moves on. And yet they persist.

This report draws on research conducted by the University of Sydney Business School, supported by a CEMS innovation grant. Our team has interrogated a growing collection of conceptual ‘icebergs’ – ideas that float around organisations that look innocent enough on the surface, but which can have deep roots and pose a challenge when not used appropriately.
These deep roots comprise the underlying beliefs, values, and assumptions that drive an organisation’s practices. To effectively manage the changing of mental models, it is crucial to explore and modify these concealed elements, as they significantly impact the success of any change initiative.

To support organisations in this process, we developed the STARS unlearning framework as a guiding tool for organisational leaders. STARS involves a series of steps you can take in your organisation, in order to identify and unlearn old and unhelpful ideas.

Cite this report

Norman, Pat; Peter, Sandra; Riemer, Kai; Garbuio, Massimo; & Sullivan, Rick (2024) “Reach for the STARS: a framework for unlearning management wisdoms”. Sydney Executive Plus, The University of Sydney.

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