the way we perceive the world;water to the fish. Theparadigm explains the world to
andhelps us to predict its behavior."Paradigms are found in all areas
life.Futurist Joel Barker,in his book,
Discovering the Future: The Business
defines a paradigm as "any set
regulations that describes boundaries and tells us what to do to be successful within those boundaries." According
this broad definition, zero defects, rock androll music and Einstein's theory
relativityall qualify as paradigms.A new paradigm gives rise to new possibilities. Technological
example, fire, the wheel, the telescope, the steamengine,the airplane and the atomic
often open the way to new paradigms.Social paradigms dictate our behaviorand collective values.
the 1950s,the rule was "throwit anywhere,it will go away
and smokestacks billowing black smoke were a proudsymbol
productivity.Medical paradigmsdetermine how we think about our bodies.Over the years,Western medicine has identified evil spirits, humors, germs andviruses as causes
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 whatever we perceive."Most
our notions about the worldcome from a set
assumptions which wetake for granted,and which,for the most
part,we don't examine
saysWerner Erhard,a consultant who has beendealing with the effects
bring these assumptions to thetable with us as a given.They are so mucha part
who we are that it is difficult for
to separate ourselves from them enoughto be able to talk about them.
do notthink these assumptions, we think
them."Expressions such as"that's impossible,"
"that's not the way we do it aroundhere"speak to the existence
paradigms,or belief systems,that are operating,
unseen, in the background.Like water tothe fish,they are not recognized by
,they influence what wethink
even what we see.
vase? "Reality" has less to do with whatis actually there than with how
are looking at 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
pointsto an experiment that illustrates theparadigm effect. In the experiment, originally reported in 1949, people were brieflyshown a deck
playing cards in whichsome cards had red spades instead
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.
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
the worldthat supports our paradigms.Paradigms act as filters on reality evenin the "objective"activities
science.Kuhn found that when confronted withinformation that was anomalous to theirparadigms,scientists either distorted theinformation until it fit their rules,
theyjust didn't see it."The thing that is almost scary aboutthe paradigm effect is its physiologicalimpact on us
says Barker. "
see bestthat which fits our rules.
not at all that which does not."
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 different things when looking with familiarinstruments in places they have lookedbefore.
the professional community 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
afixed,objective universe.Just as an object
appears differently in an infrared,ordinarylight 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 possibilities.
paradigms determine ourworld view, the way we perceive things,what we perceive,what we can see as possible,what we can't see as possible and
what we can't see at all. Ultimately, theylimit our strategies and our actions."
Adam Smith pointed out that,"When weare in the middle
a paradigm it is hard to