Unlearn to Relearn: Embracing the Absurdity of Contradictions in Knowledge

September 21, 2023
image shows contrasting colors

Contradictions reveal hidden truths. Though seemingly incompatible notions, when explored in harmony, they uncover profound insights otherwise unseen. This is the peculiar lesson that opposites impart.

In the realm of knowledge work, we often cling to principles we believe to be sound. However, moving forward does not come from clinging to the past, but by challenging traditional beliefs. It is found in the ability to dance between contrasting concepts, integrating opposing forces into an elevated understanding.

Consider the dichotomy between tradition and innovation. The knowledge worker must honor time-tested practices that form their bedrock, yet remain open to pioneering advanced approaches. In this interplay, they distinguish between the obsolete and the timeless, crafting solutions, both grounded and novel.

Or examine the tension between specialization and cross-pollination. While depth of expertise is crucial, breakthroughs emerge from cross-disciplinary collaboration. At the nexus of contradicting perspectives lie sparks of imagination.

In training the modern knowledge worker, we must therefore emphasize this dance, this integration of apparent opposites. To forget entrenched thinking, yet remember timeless truths. To master known techniques, yet explore experimental combinations. In this openness to embrace contradiction, knowledge is transformed into wisdom.

Let us enter this landscape with curiosity. As we explore the opposing forces that shape our work, we will uncover new frontiers of understanding. What may at first appear contradictory, in truth lights the way forward.

In short, when delving into something new, you must embrace these opposing approaches:

Forget everything you’ve ever learned before. Open yourself up to the possibility that past experiences, especially negative ones, may hinder your ability to absorb new knowledge.

Remember everything you’ve ever learned before. Draw upon your previous experiences to avoid starting from scratch and build upon the foundation you’ve already established.

What to Forget

In the realm of content management, there are instances where forgetting becomes imperative. Here are a few examples of things to let go of from both unstructured and structured solutions.

Negative experiences with unstructured solutions

Transitioning from tools like Word or Help Authoring Tools (HATs) can leave a bitter taste, often stemming from tedious hours spent fixing inconsistencies in the output. These tools allow authors to have free rein, leading to potential chaos and a crisis of consistency.
For instance, inserting an indented paragraph under a bullet point could be accomplished in multiple ways, like using shift enter, introducing new class names, or resorting to excessive spaces (yes, I’ve witnessed that!). However, in a robust and reliable authoring tool with structured content, the need for such tweaks should never arise.

As an anecdote, I once knew a company that spent eight hours before every release fixing up their source files. Considering their monthly output of 20 documents, the cost was quite significant!

Unpleasant experiences with other Component Content Management Systems (CCMSs):

If you’ve had the opportunity to work with a DITA-based system, you may have encountered its challenges firsthand. I often jest that learning the theory of DITA can feel like being handed a high-tech toaster and being told you need a Ph. D in electrical engineering to make toast. It’s a classic case of overcomplicating the simplest task. All you want to do is write! Consequently, this may deter you from exploring a structured authoring solution that doesn’t require delving into DITA theory or acquiring an engineering degree!

Many CCMSs are intricate combinations of various woven products, such as an authoring platform, versioning system, and publishing engine. These configurations often come with their own weaknesses and require specialized expertise. It wouldn’t be surprising if you find the management of structured content and the creation of high-quality deliverables to be an overwhelming hassle.

Now, I acknowledge that I’ve been slightly negative thus far, but it’s important to remember that this section was all about letting go of things. Forgetting negatives is a natural tendency, after all.

We often struggle to forget the positives, unless you happen to be the world’s number one tennis player, where the added pressure may make you wish to avoid the limelight! By the way, if you are indeed the world’s number one and reading this, please reach out to me! We’d love to have you as a guest on our podcast! See you soon, Novak (or Carlos)!

What to Remember

Now, let’s discuss what you should remember from the systems you’ve previously used. I won’t categorize them as before, as symmetry is unnecessary here.

The skills you have acquired are likely more extensive than you realize. Welcome to the imposter syndrome of content management skills, where doubting your unquestionable abilities can be a healthy reminder to remain humble. It’s a remedy for overconfidence. But let’s discuss some of those skills you may already have.


If you have implemented reuse strategies in other systems, that knowledge will prove incredibly valuable. Paligo is continuously enhancing its functionality, whether it’s related to Help Authoring Tools (HATs) or providing simpler authoring than other Component Content Management Systems (CCMSs). Variables, for example, will be more flexible in Paligo, allowing for multiple variants instead of resetting values or having to continuously import a new set of values.

Your previous knowledge in this area will empower you to construct the perfect reuse arsenal, even if some options may be new or different.

Good and organized writing

The ability to organize your topics effectively and create clear content is always valuable, regardless of the tool you use. Furthermore, if you already understand elements such as steps, indents, code snippets, accordions, videos, and more, it will greatly benefit you as you explore a new authoring system. Knowing what functionalities to look for during onboarding can expedite your familiarization process.

Collaboration workflows with knowledge workers

In every company, content is a collaborative effort, involving contributions from multiple individuals and teams. Establishing clear workflows, including review processes and sign-offs, is vital. By having a well-defined workflow in mind, you can explore how Paligo can support and‌ improve upon your existing collaboration processes.


As we delve into the realm of contradictions, we discover a peculiar dance between letting go and holding on; between forgetting and remembering. In the world of content management and knowledge workers, this dance takes on a particular significance, urging us to reevaluate our preconceived notions and embrace the power of opposites.

Forgetting, it seems, is an act of liberation. It allows us to shed the burdens of past missteps and negative experiences, clearing the path for fresh insights and new perspectives. By releasing ourselves from the shackles of outdated practices, we make room for growth and transformation.

Yet, remembering is equally crucial. Our accumulated knowledge, skills, and triumphs form the bedrock upon which we build our future endeavors. They serve as reminders of our capabilities, guiding us towards making informed decisions and avoiding past pitfalls. The past becomes a wellspring of wisdom, shaping our present and shaping the landscape of what is yet to come.

In this intricate interplay of opposites, we find the essence of progress. It is a delicate balance, one that demands an openness to change while honoring the lessons of the past. It compels us to question our assumptions, challenge our comfort zones, and seek the harmonious integration of contrasting ideas.

So, as you embark on your own content management journey, let the contradictions guide you. Embrace the forgotten and the remembered; the past and the present; the known and the unknown. In doing so, you will navigate the ever-evolving landscape of information with grace and agility, crafting a future where contradictions become catalysts for innovation.

Remember, in the symphony of contradictions lies the symphony of progress.

Thank you for joining me on this exploration.