Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do you know what a paradigm shift is....Really?

The following is an excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced on Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm and peaceful scene.

Then suddenly a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing.

And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive a to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see everyone else on the subway felt irritated.

So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to consciousness of the situation tor the first time and said softly,” Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about that. We just came back from the hospital where their mother died an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t how to handle it either.”

WOW. Very powerful!

Only problem is that is not scientific. Why scientific? Well “a paradigm shift (or revolutionary science) is, according to Thomas Kuhn in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science.” (see Wikipedia for explanation).

I actually have no issue with Covey calling his example a paradigm shift. Personally I think it is more powerful than say simply “a different perspective”. However it does illustrate how easy a specific terminology can be turned into buzzwords. In the same Wikipedia article the following appears, “In his book, Mind The Gaffe, author Larry Trask advises readers to refrain from using it, and to use caution when reading anything that contains the phrase. It is referred to in several articles and books as abused and overused to the point of becoming meaningless.

Like many of you I often read documents, papers, articles and books that are filled with vomitous amounts of jargon and buzz words. Whilst I do not have a fact base on the correlation of jargon related strategic papers and the successful execution of the given strategies it would be nice to, just one day, read a document written in basic coherent English. Now that would be a paradigm shift J


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