Whatever Happened to My Old Paradigm?

This week, I have been in Phoenix taking advantage of some great training for facilitators from Joel Barker. This particular training focuses mostly upon a new way to enhance the quality of decisions that groups make by considering many possible implications. However, a portion of the training has also been a great reminder about the power of paradigms and how they both aid and limit our ability to make decisions.

Here are a few random insights that I have been reminded about this week:

  1. Paradigms help you solve problems until they don’t.
    Paradigms can be defined in many ways, but perhaps the easiest way to explain a paradigm is that it’s a way of looking at things. It includes our presuppositions, experiences, perspectives, and biases. And paradigms are helpful. They allow us to sort things out, establish patterns, repeat processes, and make decisions. Without them, we couldn’t solve problems consistently. However, every paradigm has its limitations, too. In fact, paradigms uncover the problems that they cannot solve, and that’s when we have to realize that the same paradigm that has helped us solve so many problems is not adequate to solve many other problems. They help us—until they don’t. Then they hinder us.
  1. New paradigms usually come from the edge.
    Ironically, and sometimes unceremoniously, new ways of looking at things—new paradigms—don’t come from the people who have the most knowledge of the old paradigm. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Most of the time, our familiarity with the old paradigm keeps us from seeing the new paradigm, or even looking for one. If we are on the inside, and if we have used the old paradigm very successfully, it is very unlikely that we will abandon it for new paradigms. We can be painfully slow to see that it has become inadequate. Who sees it? Naturally, the ones who have no vested interest in and are not attached to keeping the old paradigm.
  1. Innovative leaders start looking for the new paradigm before they need it.
    This is possibly the most important discipline that an innovative leader practices. He/she starts looking for the new paradigm long before they need it. They change before they have to. It’s one thing to reach a level of success; it’s much harder to sustain it because the paradigms are changing faster and faster.

What are your paradigms? How intentional are you being about recognizing the paradigms you are operating by, and how intentional are you looking for the next “game-changing” paradigm? What are you doing to honor the people on the edge so that they are empowered to see the next paradigm?

Mike Mowery


Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources
governmentresource.com

4 responses

  1. Innovative leaders start looking for the new paradigm before they need it.
    This is so important to be forwarding thinking. The most effective leaders are always think ahead…they are probably already in 2015 🙂 My view on paradigms has change a lot since first hearing the word in college… LOL

    1. HAHA! A college student’s view of paradigm would definitely differ from when you’re a veteran in public service. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Glenn Drysdale | Reply

    Great points here. One of the key issues, when you move to a new paradigm, is to be sure you are taking people with you.

    1. That’s a great note. Thanks so much for you input, Glenn!

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