Paradigm and Paradigm Shift

Paradigm and Paradigm Shift

One of the most commonly used clichés in the Corporate World by senior level Executives is “Taking the Paradigm Shift”. However, how many of us really understand the meaning of this.

What is a Paradigm?

As we all know, a paradigm is a model or a pattern.  It’s a shared set of assumptions that have to do with how we perceive the world. Paradigms are very helpful because they allow us to develop expectations about what will probably occur based on these assumptions.  But when data falls outside our paradigm, we find it hard to see and accept.  This is called the “Paradigm Effect”.

The dictionary meaning of a Paradigm is “a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model”. A more scientific way of looking at it reveals that a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.

If one were to put it in common parlance, Paradigm is a set pattern or behavior of us which we follow without thinking much about it.  A few paradigms in our daily lives could be – Some of us wet the paste before brushing, some don’t. When we wear out shirt, either our left hand or right which goes first, not left on Monday, right on Tuesday etc. and we may note that we repeat this every single time we wear a shirt. So, if we were to observe closely, the pattern never changes.

What is a Paradigm Shift?

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the book titled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, fathered, defined and popularized the concept of “Paradigm Shift”. Kuhn argues that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another”.

We can also see that the agents of such a change are driving a new paradigm shift today. The signs are all around us. For e.g. the advent of computers and the internet have impacted both personal and business environments, and are catalysts for a Paradigm Shift. We are shifting from a mechanistic, manufacturing, industrial society to an organic, service based, information centered society, and increases in technology will continue to impact globally. Change is inevitable. It’s the only true constant.

For millions of years we have been evolving and will continue to do so. Change is difficult. Human Beings resist change; however, the process has been set in motion long ago and we will continue to co-create our own experience. Kuhn states that “awareness is prerequisite to all acceptable changes of theory”. It all begins in the mind of the person. What we perceive, whether normal or otherwise, conscious or unconscious, is subject to the limitations and distortions produced by our inherited and socially conditional nature. However, we are not restricted by this for we can change. We are moving at an accelerated rate of speed and our state of consciousness is transforming and transcending. If we were to closely look at it, we may say that “We are not Human Being having a Spiritual Experience but we are Spiritual Beings having Human Experience”

What is Paradigm Paralysis?

Small paradigms are harmless – however at times there are bigger paradigms which may lead us to what can be termed as “Paradigm Paralysis”. Paradigm Paralysis is getting stuck and our inability or refusal to see beyond the current pattern of our thinking and it is one of the greatest barriers to a paradigm shift.

One of the easiest methods to encounter Paradigm Paralysis is developing the ability to “Think out-of-the Box”. Thinking out of the box is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. This allows us to look the same situation or problem differently and thereby come up with a novel solution.

We all have heard the story of the proverbial phoenix bird rising from the ashes. Shri Sanjay Lalbhai (also popularly known as the Denim Man), the Chairman and Managing Director of Arvind Mills Ltd. is a living example of such tenacity. It was a tough phase for textile industry in the years following 1980. Because of power looms, fabric began to be mass produced and got cheap. Many mills lost market and as a result, many of them downed their shutters. Since 1931, its founding year to 1979, there was not a single year when the Arvind Mills had not paid dividend. Now when their survival itself was at stake, there was no question of paying dividend.

But under such tough circumstances, Sanjaybhai implemented what is called Renovision and rescued the company. Renovision means looking at the same situation from different perspectives. Sanjaybhai observed that other mill owners are busy planning how to close power looms. He looked at the whole thing differently. He thought why not start business differently. This is how the idea of Denim was born. The city that was known as the Manchester of India in the past began to be called the Capital of Denim. In fact, Denim paved the way for the future and the rest is history. If he so desired. Sanjay Lalbhai could have joined the family business that was quite massive in scale and size and merged his identity with that of the group. But he chose to tread his own path to carve his own identity.

In conclusion, one may say that taking the Paradigm Shift may be compared to the Proverb – “Just when the Caterpillar thought that the world was over, it turned into a Butterfly”. It means that the caterpillar was wrapped in a world of darkness, like we can get when bad things happen to us…but instead of remaining in a dark place the cocoon burst and the caterpillar turned into a butterfly, free to escape the darkness and fly into the light…just like humans we are to remember that often in our darkest hours things happen we don’t understand, but with faith, and hope we can burst through like the butterfly into the light. Sometimes the exact hardships that you think are too hard to persevere through are the ones that change you for the better.

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