The actor playing the actor Fred Kwan, "Chief Engineer" on the Star-Trek-like show "Galaxy Quest" asks "has anybody got any change?" as his mates are beamed up by what they thought were fans of the show pretending to be aliens they just met at a conference. The paradigm shift is the "fans" turned out to actually be those aliens. Change indeed. The shift hit the fans (and actors) as they were seen as the aliens they actually were.
What is a paradigm?
Paradigms are entrenched mindsets that act as filters. They are like sunglasses that only let in certain colors but not others. They can go by other names. Paradigms are a more encompassing version of what Peter Senge called "Mental Models" and what NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) calls "belief systems". They vary in their scope from personal to global.
An example of a common paradigm in some societies is a child's belief in the Easter Bunny (not just a myth?).
A business might have an unspoken paradigm of "don't give the boss bad news".
Science has paradigms like Copernicus' theory, the heliocentric view of the earth orbiting the sun.
Paradigms are systems and act like living organisms with a will to perpetuate themselves. They do so in two main ways:
- Once a paradigm is accepted, it filters out information that would contradict it.
- The effect of self-fulfilling prophecy means those who hold a paradigm - whether they be individual people, segments of the marketplace, or an entire culture - act in a way that expects the paradigm to fulfill itself, so it usually does.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it.” - Steven R Covey
However, while paradigms may seem durable while they last, they can dissolve quickly when met with the critical mass of contradictory information that signals the beginning of a new paradigm. At that point, it's better to be driving the car rather than standing in the headlight beams.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, some achieve paradigm shifts and some have paradigm shifts thrust upon them. Copernicus' heliocentric paradigm replaced the geocentric paradigm of the earth orbiting the sun and has now been supplanted by Einstein's relativity.
How do you make sure you are the driver - or, at least a passenger in the same car - and not the deer in the headlights when an old paradigm collapses as a new one comes in?
You can make paradigms your tools, instruments of a better life or a more successful business when you learn to notice, utilize, and create Paradigm Vectors.