Week 6:  Understanding  Paradigms

Course Guide

This week I would like you to understand more about the concept of a paradigm.  Below I have found some definitions which will help you understand how to define a paradigm (blood is thicker than water) and to begin to understand their function, role, limits, and the conditions under which they change. A most significant paradigm shift in the19th Century (1800-1900) just prior to Darwin and scientific rationalism was the Individualism contained in Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendentalism.  I have supplied two links in the course guide...one in general from the Stanford Encyclopedia and one to his complete works.  Pick one of his essays to read, summarize the main ideas, and select and reflect on a quote from your chosen essay. 


by Flemming Funch, 28 Dec 94.

A few tidbits from my reading of the book "Paradigms - The business of discovering the future" by Joel Barker.

Basically a paradigm is a set of rules that define boundaries and tell you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful. The paradigm provides a
model for how problems are solved.

Changes in paradigms can not be predicted from trends. They will come as a complete surprise if one just extrapolates trends.

A paradigm shift will usually take place when too many problems have stacked up that were unsolvable with the previous paradigm.

The paradigm shift is basically that the rules get changed. Changing the rules changes everything.

Paradigms go through a cycle that could be said to consist of 3 phases:

First problems are solved fairly slowly, because people are only reluctantly learning about the new paradigm and it is unfamiliar.

In the second phase things happen very rapidly, the paradigm seems to handle everything very smoothly, and nobody would consider using anything else.

In the third phase the curve flattens out. The paradigm no longer solves more and more problems. The unsolvable problems are left and that starts becoming
apparent. That's when a paradigm shift is bound to happen.

Joel Arthur Barker: "Paradigms - The business of discovering the future". First published as "Future Edge". ISBN 0-88730-647-0. HarperBusiness.