Paradigms

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  • Topic: Paradigm shift, Paradigm, Change
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Paradigms

The Power of a Paradigm

Before we can really begin talking about change and solving problems, we need to understand what a paradigm is and how to make a "paradigm shift".

Paradigm is a Greek word. It was originally a scientific term, and is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception, assumption, or frame of reference. In a more general sense, it's the way we "see" the world - not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding and interpreting.

A simple way to understand paradigms is to see them as maps. We all know that "the map is not the territory." A map is simply an explanation of certain aspects of the territory. That is exactly what a paradigm is. It is a theory, an explanation, or model of something else.

Each of us has a great many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps. We seldom question their accuracy; we're usually even unaware that we have them. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be.

Paradigm Shifts

To give you some idea of the impact of the reality of a paradigm, read the following paradigm-shifting experienced as told by Frank Koch in Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute.

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reporting "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." "Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out. Lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees." Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees." The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees." I'm a seaman second class," came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees." By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees." Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."

We changed course.

The paradigm shift experienced by the captain - and by us as we read this account - puts the situation in a totally different light. We can see a reality that is superseded by his limited perception - a reality that is as critical for us to understand in our daily lives as it was for the captain in the fog.

"The Business of Paradigms" Video

Our paradigms prevent us from seeing, accepting and understanding new ideas. Webster's dictionary defines Paradigm as "a pattern or a model".

Paradigms are a set of rules and regulations that do two things: 1. Establish Boundaries
2. Provides Rules for Success

Paradigms act as filters that screen data coming into one's mind. Paradigms filter incoming experiences. We are viewing our world through our paradigms all the time. We constantly select from the world that data that best fits our rules and regulations, and try to ignore the rest. As a result what may be perfectly clear to a person with one paradigm, may be totally imperceptible to a person with a different paradigm.

The "Paradigm Effect"

"The Paradigm Effect" can blind us from creative solutions to difficult problems. Our rules and regulations keep us from successfully anticipating the future, because we try to discover the future by looking for it by-way-of our...
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