(With thanks to Leadership Letters and especially Leadership Letter No. 103.) Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Giusto Sustermans
It is very easy to see where others need to change, so that "things can be improved", but not always so easy to see where we need to change ourselves. Sometimes our society imposes a paradigm straitjacket on us (e.g., religious custom, political correctness, rule by dictatorship), so that we cannot (are unable or not permitted to) change - even if we wanted to. Under such circumstances, in our minds we may still see a change as being desirable, so that "things can be improved".
This is what I was referring to in the blog post on Ahamkara, below.
A significant change of thinking frameworks/patterns can be referred to as a "paradigm shift".
What exactly is a paradigm shift?
A "paradigm" is defined (Shorter English Oxford Dictionary) as:
- "An example; a pattern followed; a typical instance; an epitome; Philos. a mode of viewing the world which underlies the theories and methodology of science in a particular period of history." L15.
- "a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions and practices shared by a community which forms a particular vision of reality that is the basis of the way a community organizes itself".
- A dominant paradigm is seldom, if ever, stated explicitly; it exists unquestioned.
- Once paradigms are accepted, our minds cling to them tenaciously.
- The unfolding of a new paradigm is always discontinuous. Intellectual and emotional resistance inevitably arise when a new way of looking at the world is presented.
- Paradigms are common. We have them in almost every aspect of our lives, including our spiritual lives. We have paradigms of how we understand “church,” “Christian leadership” and, of course, “leader development.”
- Paradigms are useful. They help us identify what is important and what is not. They focus our attention. They offer us models for problem solving and ways of acting and reacting.
- Sometimes our paradigm can become the paradigm – the only way to do something. This can lead to “paradigm paralysis.”
- Consequently, when we’re confronted with an alternative idea, we reject it out of hand.
Thus, and in summary:
- What is potentially one of our greatest strengths could become a great weakness, by not allowing us to see both the need and the opportunity for change.
- The people who create new paradigms are usually "outsiders" - i.e., not usually part of the established paradigm community.
- These outsiders have nothing to lose by creating the new paradigm. This could mean that, if we wanted to find the new paradigms that are developing in a certain field, we may need to look beyond the centre, sometimes even beyond the fringes.
- Those practitioners of the old prevailing (AS-IS) paradigm who elect to change to a new (TO-BE) paradigm have to be very courageous. e.g., Galileo Galilei, who was persecuted by the Catholic Church when his scientifically gathered facts and theories contradicted the prevailing religious dogma and theory of geocentrism - the latter being the AS-IS paradigm of that time. This was argumentum ad hominem on a grand scale.
- New paradigms can be perceived as "threats" to the old ones. The higher our position and the greater our ego involvement, the greater may be the perceived risk. The better we have become at the "old ways", the more we have invested in it, and the more we may feel we have to lose by changing paradigms. Icons must not be broken, sacred cows must not be killed, and some would put their lives - or (more usually) the lives of others - at risk to preserve the status quo.
- It is up to us to choose whether to change our paradigms. We can choose to question our old paradigms and adopt new ones.