Monday, 12 April 2010

The Birth of a Paradigmeer

Have you noticed that every so often you need a word to describe something and every word you try isn’t quite right? You need a word that is somewhere in between those other words. At which point you can give in and use something that you feel is unsatisfactory... or do something different.

I wanted a word which would describe those brilliant, brave, enlightened souls who were dissatisfied enough with conventional wisdom to ask if there could be another way? My choice is to define what I mean by it and then create an appropriate word.

To start with, they are people who have been a catalyst of change; those who have created a ‘step change’. 

Most of the time change is evolutionary, where a succession of improvements continually refines that which already exists. Rules are created; ‘this is the way we do it ‘round here’’ becomes the mantra. Taking a different approach becomes very difficult, because the rules, written and unwritten legislate against it.

Take sports coaching as an example, where athletes learn the techniques that allowed others to be successful. This is how you serve like Roger Federer at tennis, or Arnold Palmer swings a golf club, or get your wet suit off at the transition phase of a triathlon ‘like the pros’. We copy their technique, practice their technique, and perfect their technique. A set of rules develops, at first unwritten, then fully formatted soon to be followed by the means of policing. Practices become established and entrenched.

Add the greatest disempowering factor - mindset. People believe that this is the ‘best’ way of doing things to the exclusion of anything other than refinements and evolutionary progress. It is not in their best interests to do anything different, they have become expert practitioners whose power and prestige are reliant on upholding the status quo. They actually become highly proficient in ensuring their position is protected; they have no interest in doing anything which threatens their position. They create restrictive practices to prevent their position from being eroded.

In every aspect of our lives you can see this happening, just examine your work life, business, politics, energy, banking, law, medicine, education. How many things do you do that are governed by rules, processes and accepted convention?

Find a better way
Every so often people dare to question the rules simply by asking why we have to do it like this. They ask the most empowering question ‘what more can there be?’

Who are these people? What makes them think differently? Why do they take such risks? What triggers them to take action? What can we learn from them if, in our own way, we want to take ourselves, our team, our organisation, our industry to the next level. I needed a new word so I called these people ‘Paradigmeers’.

Para~digm~eer (par'ə dīm~eer', -) ~ noun
A person or persons who undertakes to change the rules and create a new reality. Someone to be admired!

It took about an hour to nominate our first 54 possible Paradigmeers. This list has since been chopped, changed, scrutinised, analysed, added to and generally argued over by my colleagues and I. It’s a great way spark an argument. ‘They’ has also broadened into five categories:

1. Paradigmeering Leaders
2. Historical events that created a paradigm shift
3. Products that changed our lives
4. Situations that prompted Paradigmeering
5. Visionary Paradigmeers

We’ll share our ‘Paradigmeers’ with you and maybe you could suggest a few to be considered. There will no doubt be things they have in common, but I shall specify no further as heaven forbid, this could well create a set of rules! So far the only rule is that they changed the rules to create a new reality.

Our hope is that this will inspire you and others to risk changing the rules to create a better world. As we look more closely at Paradigmeers so you’ll see how they have been responsible for enabling wonderful changes to occur. Some of our nominees are obvious Paradigmeers, other less well known, some have been successful whereas some have yet to receive the adulation that we think they truly deserve.

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