From Tom Krapu:
Nearly everyone has an idea of what "paradigm shifts" means. “Grasping a new and different way of seeing things” comes to mind. But most people don’t know who popularized this idea, and the story is fascinating. So are the implications.
My colleague Manfred Straehle pointed out in a LinkedIn discussion that this concept is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year. Thank you, Manfred!
Thomas Kuhn is the originator of “paradigm shift” and he has had a cult (read: enthusiastic) following in academia since he published the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962. I read it in the early 70s and while I was too young for it to rock my world, I certainly drank the Kool-Aid. The Guardian article Manfred cites does a GREAT job of summarizing Kuhn’s life and work. A great tribute.
But what are the implications of Kuhn’s work in our daily lives? As the Guardian article points out, changing one's state of understanding in a profound and dramatic way can be described as paradigm shifting. We aren’t talking small insights or discoveries. Here we are talking about those mind-blowing breakthroughs in understanding that can be life-altering. Learning is not always incremental; sometimes it takes place in leaps!
For instance, there was a time when my perception of my social world was one where myself and others simply acted upon each other. I believed my actions were my only source of impact in relation to others. I was separate, independent and autonomous from them. I acted and they reacted, or they acted and I reacted.
One book that was life-changing for me was Leadership and Self-Deception. As a result of reading it, I had a sudden and immediate shift in the way I think about relationships and how I attribute cause. Let me give you an example.
Before: I am offended by someone’s actions and in my mind, their offense justifies whatever course of action I take in relation to them.
After: I am offended by someone’s actions and I consider the offense more deeply and contextualize the offense. Was there something I did to influence this which I was or was not aware of? If unaware, am I open to learning what that influence was? If I did do something am I willing to apologize?
“We don’t know what we don’t know.” What a great saying. But when what we don’t know comes to light, THEN we can see things in that light that we had not considered before. Some such shifts in understanding and awareness can literally change the world for us because it can transform how we see nearly everything in our lives.
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As an executive and leadership coach, Tom Krapu, Ph.D., PCC has over thirty years of experience helping others in their personal and professional development. Since 2001, he has served as a coach, trainer and facilitator at the individual, team and organizational levels. His executive coaching experience includes working with executives at all levels in diverse sectors of the economy from technology to health care, investment, publishing, manufacturing, government and higher education. He blogs at Infinite Potential. You're invited to connect with Tom Krapu on LinkedIn.
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