By Alan Graner
Sorry to be blunt, but most of the people talking about “paradigm shifts” don’t know their paradigm from their shift.
The definition of “paradigm shift”
In 1962 Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution in which he developed the concept of a paradigm shift. He stated scientific advancement is not evolutionary but rather a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.
“It’s a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change.”
In other words, a true paradigm shift is an OMG moment.
Phony paradigm shifts
You see them all the time: hyperbolic headlines proclaiming a paradigm shift that isn’t.
Here are a few actual examples.
- “The Paradigm Shift in Financial Planning the Government Won’t Tell You About”
Promises to show you how to protect your assets when the monetary system as we know it disappears. Which it hasn’t.
- “Mentoring Instead of Teaching: A Paradigm Shift”
Claims the concept of traditional teaching is being replaced by mentoring. (Yawn.)
- “Isn’t it Time for a Paradigm Shift in the Republican View of Science”
Basically Republicans are asked to change their perceptions. Some might think this is revolutionary, but no.
True paradigm shifts turn the world topsy-turvy
Here are true paradigm shifts in the three areas above:
- The shift from the barter system to a monetary system. It revolutionized how we did business and how we traded, leading to the rise of civilizations.
- The shift from education for the privileged to universal education propagated by public schools. Without it the U.S. and other countries would still be agrarian societies.
- The shift from one-man rule (kings, dictators, etc.) to democracy. It’s the most powerful political revolution in history.
Other paradigm shifts:
- The agricultural revolution led to farming, a reliable food supply, cities and civilization.
- The industrial revolution transformed us from farmers to urban workers resulting in affordable mass produced products, the automobile and mass transit, slums and welfare.
- Quantum mechanics introduced us to a bizarre new world that alters our concept of reality.
- The automobile transformed transportation…and the world.
So please, the next time you’re tempted to claim a paradigm shift, don’t. Unless it really truly is.
Agree or disagree?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.
An earlier version was published August 21, 2014