Paradigmatic Considerations

Thomas Kuhn is generally credited with introducing the concepts of paradigms and paradigm shiftshis classic work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, first published in 1962. According to Kuhn, Paradigms are “universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of researchers.” (Page X of the 1996 edition). A paradigm describes:

o What is to be observed and scrutinized.
o The kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject.
o How these questions are to be structured.
o How the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted.

“In short, a paradigm is a comprehensive model of understanding that provides a field’s members with viewpoints and rules on how to look at the field’s problems and how to solve them. Paradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute.”

Since it was first published in 1993, Joel Barker’s Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future has become a “must read” for those who are struggling to understand what is happening and, more to the point, what

will probably be happening in the global marketplace. Peter Drucker has suggested that one of the greatest challenges for any organization is to manage the consequences and implications of a future which has already occurred. I agree. However, I also agree with Barker that it is possible to recognize what he calls a “paradigm shift”: a major change of the rules and regulations that establish or define boundaries, a change which suggests that new behavior will be required within those redefined boundaries.

One of the most important concepts in the book is what Barker calls “paradigm pliancy”: “the purposeful seeking out of new ways of doing things. It is an active behavior in which you challenge your paradigms [i.e. the status quo, assumptions and premises] by asking the Paradigm Shift Question: What do I believe is impossible to do in my field, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change my business?” Have you asked this question? Do you realize that one or more of your competitors may have already asked that question?

These and other questions are well worth your thoughtful consideration.

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