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Breaking Out of the Box -A Crash Course in Paradigm Thinking with Werner Erhard

Breaking Out of the Box -A Crash Course in Paradigm Thinking with Werner Erhard

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Published by Tim20C
From the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, by Debra Feinstein
From the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, by Debra Feinstein

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Tim20C on Mar 08, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/04/2015

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XEROX
Reprinted fromtheFa
ll
1989 issue
of
BENCHMARK
Magaz
in
e,apublication
of
Xerox
Corp
ora
ti
on.
A
·
ut
oflhe
CRASHCOURSE
IN
PARADIGM
THINKING
000000000
CAN
YOU
CROSS
allnine dots
in
theabovedrawing with only four straightlines,with outliftingyourpencilfrom thepaper?Give yourself a
few
minutesto
try
tosolvethispuzzle before going ontoreadtheanswer. Thepuzzle
is
impossible tosolve ifyou assume,like most people do thefirst time they see it, thatthere is
an
imaginaryframe
(as
depicted below)aroundtheninedots.
fOoOl
10 0 01
lQ...Q...QJ
by
Debra Feinstein
Thisassumedborderserves asa boundary,or alimit to thinking. But thisimagined constraint
is
inthemind
of
theproblem-solver,not
in
the definition
of
the problem.Solving the puzzlerequires
us
tochangethe paradigm,theframe
of
reference with which
we
viewthe problem.When
we
change ourparadigm-ourassumptions about, ortheway
we
lookatthe problem-options that were unthinkable
in
theoldparadigmsuddenly emerge.The drawing below illustratesone
of
manysolutions that become possiblewhen
we
breakthroughthe assumedboundary.The puzzle pointsto
an
important concept for success
in
the1990s:
We
need
to
bre
ak
out
of
our paradig
ms
of thinking
if
we
ar
e going
to
solvetheproblems facing
us.
Theabilityto master paradigmsis a critically important skill fordealingeffectivelywith
an
accelerating pace
of
change.A recognition
of
theirexistence
is
the firststeptowardmasteringthem.
Paradigm
Thinking
101:
Water
to
a
Fish
Thewordparadigmcomes from the Greek root,"paradeigma," which means "modelorpattern."Adam Smith,
in
hisbook,
Powers
of
the Mind,
defmesa paradigm as"a shared set
of
assumptions."Smith
 
,/
,
~
- -
-
 
writes,"The paradigm
is
the way we perceive the world;water to the fish. Theparadigm explains the world to
us
andhelps us to predict its behavior."Paradigms are found in all areas
of
life.Futurist Joel Barker,in his book,
Discovering the Future: The Business
of
Paradigms,
defines a paradigm as "any set
of
rules
or
regulations that describes boundaries and tells us what to do to be successful within those boundaries." According
to
this broad definition, zero defects, rock androll music and Einstein's theory
of
relativityall qualify as paradigms.A new paradigm gives rise to new possibilities. Technological
advances-for
example, fire, the wheel, the telescope, the steamengine,the airplane and the atomic
bomb
often open the way to new paradigms.Social paradigms dictate our behaviorand collective values.
In
the environmentalparadigm
of
the 1950s,the rule was "throwit anywhere,it will go away
,"
and smokestacks billowing black smoke were a proudsymbol
of
productivity.Medical paradigmsdetermine how we think about our bodies.Over the years,Western medicine has identified evil spirits, humors, germs andviruses as causes
of
disease, and hasdesigned treatments accordingly.While we are in a paradigm, we takeits rules and boundaries for granted. It iswhat we call"reality."Like eyeglasses with colored lenses, our paradigm colors whatever we perceive."Most
of
our notions about the worldcome from a set
of
assumptions which wetake for granted,and which,for the most part,we don't examine
or
question
,"
saysWerner Erhard,a consultant who has beendealing with the effects
of
paradigms since
1971
. "
We
bring these assumptions to thetable with us as a given.They are so mucha part
of
who we are that it is difficult for
us
to separate ourselves from them enoughto be able to talk about them.
We
do notthink these assumptions, we think
from
them."Expressions such as"that's impossible,"
or
"that's not the way we do it aroundhere"speak to the existence
of
paradigms,or belief systems,that are operating, unseen, in the background.Like water tothe fish,they are not recognized by
us
asour paradigms.
Yet
,they influence what wethink
-and
even what we see.
"The
real
act
of
discoveryconsists
not
in
finding
new lands
but
inseeing
with
new
eyes."
-Marcel Proust
Faces
or
vase? "Reality" has less to do with whatis actually there than with how
we
are looking at it.
Paradigm
Thinking
201:
I'll
See
It
When
I
Believe
It
Once we recognize that our paradigms arean invisible structure through which wethink,the next step is to understand thedegree to which they determine what wesee and experience. Their influence is farmore powerful and pervasive than wemay realize.Thomas Kuhn,who in 1962 wrote aseminal book on scientific paradigms called
The Structure
of
Scientific Revolutions,
pointsto an experiment that illustrates theparadigm effect. In the experiment, originally reported in 1949, people were brieflyshown a deck
of
playing cards in whichsome cards had red spades instead
of
black.The subjects literally saw the red spades asblack,because that's what they expected.Once the anomaly was pointed out, thesubjects had no trouble spotting thered spades.The experiment and others like it ledKuhn to the conviction that our paradigmsact as filters on reality.
We
never see theworld directly; we always see it throughthese paradigm filters. We never see theworld in its entirety;we see only pieces. And ourmental frameworks naturally biasus toward only seeing that part
of
the worldthat supports our paradigms.Paradigms act as filters on reality evenin the "objective"activities
of
science.Kuhn found that when confronted withinformation that was anomalous to theirparadigms,scientists either distorted theinformation until it fit their rules,
or
theyjust didn't see it."The thing that is almost scary aboutthe paradigm effect is its physiologicalimpact on us
,"
says Barker. "
We
see bestthat which fits our rules.
We
see poorly
or
not at all that which does not."
Paradigms Changethe
World
If
our paradigms determine what we see,it follows that when a paradigm changes,what is seen and believed changesaccordingly."When paradigms change,the worlditself changeswith them," Kuhn writes."Led by a new paradigm, scientists adoptnew instruments and look in new places.Even more important,during revolutions[paradigm shifts] scientists see new and different things when looking with familiarinstruments in places they have lookedbefore.
It
is as
if
the professional community had been suddenly transported toanother planet where familiar objects areseen in a different light and are joined byunfamiliar ones as well."This calls into question the notion
of
afixed,objective universe.Just as an object appears differently in an infrared,ordinarylight or X-ray photograph,how realityappears to us has less to do with what isactually there than with how we are lookingat it."Our paradigms determine the waythe world'shows up'for us,"says Erhard, "and that allows for only certain possibilities.
Our
paradigms determine ourworld view, the way we perceive things,what we perceive,what we can see as possible,what we can't see as possible and what we can't see at all. Ultimately, theylimit our strategies and our actions."
Paradigm Thinking
301:
How
Paradigms
Operate
in
Business
Adam Smith pointed out that,"When weare in the middle
of
a paradigm it is hard to

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