Flickr: Mr. T from D.C.
The fish will be the last to know the water.
Paradigms are thought patterns or assumptions that we take for granted and are out of our consciousness. When a paradigm shifts there is a change in basic assumptions. The fish and the water is an excellent example, but know that we are all “fish” and there are many kinds of water.
When a paradigm shifts the results are usually stunning. Using the fish analogy again; imagine a fish that jumps out of the water–for the very first time–and then back again. Water would never quite look the same after that experience. Imagine trying to explain what happened to all of the other fish that haven’t (yet) left the water.
One of my favorite examples of a paradigm shift is the story of the quartz watch, told by Joel Barker in The Business of Paradigms. A couple of Swiss watchmakers went to their higher-ups with a new idea that would revolutionize the industry. Since the Swiss had been the premier clock makers for hundreds of years, people in the industry had a particular way of thinking about clocks. This way of thinking was a paradigm of what a clock should be. What the watchmakers brought to the bosses on that day was different. Their new watch didn’t have springs and gears like a watch/clock was supposed to have. The bosses laughed and sent the watchmakers back to their regular jobs. A short while later, the spurned watchmakers went to a clock convention and set up a table to demonstrate their invention. Two entrepreneurs, one representing Seiko and one representing Texas Instruments, were not blinded by the old clock-making paradigm. The rest is business history. Texas Instruments and Seiko snatched up the patents and the era of the quartz watch was born. In a matter of only a few years, the Swiss watch industry went from the top floor of clock making to the basement. When the paradigm shifts, those who were first often become last.
Here are some examples of relatively modern paradigm shifts in the physical world. This level of change isn’t common, but it is nearly always dramatic:
The bicycle. Think about it; a whole new way to move built out of inanimate wooden and metal parts.
The steam engine must have been strange and scary when it first came on the scene, and what about steam locomotives?
Radio and television each were paradigm shifts.
The airplane was a paradigm shift over cars and trains.
The computer and Internet are paradigm shifts. Imagine only a couple of decades ago trying to explain what the Internet would be and how it would affect the world?
Can you add to the list?
Imagine what will happen when a clean source of energy and a non-internal combustion engine springs onto the scene. What will happen to the multi-national oil companies? What will happen to the power, money and politics associated with oil producing nations?
The paradigm shift that is happening now in education is much larger than what happened in the world of watches, planes and computers. Those are only things. The renaissance occurring is a psychological, emotional and spiritual shift which impacts the physical world as well. By changing our schools to a wiser, more effective educational design, we actually shift society—and the world.