The warning signs are often right out in plain
sight—as someone once said, "a blinding glimpse of the
obvious." If the place, and the people in it, look like the
fifties, chances are good that the ideas will be from the fifties
as well. Beware of the following (taken from a list of 101 idea
stoppers for negative thinkers):
• It won't work in my department.
• That's not my job.
• It's against company policy.
• We've tried that too, but ...
• Engineering won't approve it.
• It's not in the budget.
• It will set a precedent.
• Etc., etc., etc. ...
Examining Paradigm Change
In looking at paradigm changes, a good starting
point is author and lecturer Tom Peters. He has identified,
perhaps more than anyone, organizations that have had the courage
to break away from traditional paradigms and to change the way
they do things.
In examining the organizations that Peters has
studied, the common thread is an almost blatant disregard for
tradition without purpose, coupled with a willingness to try
something different, if
needed, to get results. Another theme is the
encouragement of everyone, at all levels, to initiate change if it
leads to improvement. Rules and regulations don't get in the way
of innovation and initiative. While not all of his examples have
maintained their positions of excellence, the lessons are still
In another sense, Peters is somewhat of a
paradigm shifter himself. He and Bob Waterman, in their initial
work, In Search of Excellence, attacked the traditional,
structured thinking about organizations, and started a new wave of
The work of Peters and others is reflective of
a number of far-reaching new paradigms, including excellence,
Just-in-Time, world class manufacturing, continuous improvement,
Total Quality Management, and kaizen. All of these major
paradigms have one thing in common, and that is a driving desire
to get better— little by little and day by day. Change becomes a
part of the organizational culture, and the dominant paradigms
support change instead of blocking it. People are comfortable with
change, and impossibilities become possible. As a result, major,
dramatic changes are often a by-product, rather than a forced
How is change initiated? Initially, not
everyone will feel comfortable with initiating change and
breaking paradigms. However, the potential exists for everyone,
given training and encouragement, to become a paradigm shifter.
Traditionally, change comes from the fringes. Think about the
person in high school who was an outsider and marched to a
different drummer, and comes back to the class reunion a
millionaire. (Someone like Bill Gates perhaps?) Sometimes new,
young employees have ideas that they should be incapable of, given
their experience. The trick is, then, is to push people to the
fringes and look everywhere for positive change—it can come from
the most unlikely places.
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