Learning Organisations - Paradigm Shift LO23739

From: Alan Cotterell (acotrel@cnl.com.au)
Date: 01/04/80

Paradigm Power

A paradigm is a basic model of an aspect of reality. It is perceived as
our ‘frame of reference’, as exhibited by administrative hierarchies,
rules and laws, and a thousand other aspects we accept as part of our
‘truth’. The philosopher Thomas Kuhn proposed that knowledge evolves by
new paradigms replacing old ones, as evidence accumulates which makes the
old ones unsustainable.

If we’re concerned about where the culture is going, and what we can all
do to change its course, our main power lies with philosophy and the force
of paradigm shifts.

Shifting our mindset doesn’t cost money, it’s democratic (we can all do
it), it goes to the crux of problems, it’s nonviolent, it’s effective,
it’s not stoppable from without, and it’s our greatest power, though
largely untapped.

    We see a pervasive mindset of control and domination permeating our
cultural institutions, a mindset driven by the fear of anarchy. If
someone—some authority or power over us—doesn’t control us, society will
fall into chaos, or so we’re to believe.

But who controls the controllers? What kind of order do those in positions
of power have in mind? Is power-over an order that works—i.e., that
creates social harmony and makes us happy?

Or does it create wars, blind obedience, inner deadness, inequities and
injustices, epidemic substance and process addictions, economic
exploitation, cynicism, chronic stress, and unhappiness?

It doesn’t make sense, for example, that we control children morning to
night with rewards and punishments and then wonder why they grow up
selfish manipulators: "What’s in it for me?" or "Just don’t get caught!"

That’s how child-rearing and schooling methods trained all of us to think.
And if people grow up obsessed with gaining power over others—the chance
to be in the one-up position and to control who’s rewarded and who’s
punished—where’s the surprise? This the logical extension of our cultural

In other words, is our culture built on a paradigm that’s working for us
as well as we need it to? Is our consensus philosophy shaping our
institutions to serve us, or are we becoming servants to systems that warp
our minds, consume our energies, and turn us into people we never wanted
to be?

When more and more of us find ourselves asking such core questions, it’s
time to start rethinking things from the ground up. It’s time to reclaim
our powers.

Philosophy’s first help comes in accurately naming what’s wrong. If we’re
just bad people, if the human race is innately selfish, violent and
power-obsessed, if reality mandates that we be powder kegs about to
explode, then we’re stuck—no options. And it’s amazing that we as a
species have lasted this long.

Certainly we have the potential to be selfish, destructive, and cruel, but
philosophy says we have other potentials too, and that which potentials
get developed depends on our philosophy—the paradigm we use to create
ourselves, families, schools, churches, governments, businesses, and

If what’s causing all the trouble is our paradigm, then that’s good news.
We can’t change reality or human nature, but we can change our paradigm.
And it doesn’t take an army or Government or money to do it.

The paradigm shift required is big. It touches all disciplines and the
very ways we think and reason. It also involves how we experience
ourselves, how we respond to our inner processes and follow our souls’

Because the shift is big, and we by no means have all the answers, we do
need to start the philosophical discussion. All of us should participate
in the planetary dialogue birthing this shift. All sorts of tools are
emerging to help. An approach is recommended that is:

• holistic, in that all our personal, cultural, and planetary systems are

• system-focused, which sees "parts" as emerging from system dynamics;

• interdisciplinary;

• philosophical;

• healing and recovery oriented, and grounded in spiritual wisdom—values
of soul, meaning, and inner guidance.

Any one of us can initiate a paradigm shift.

To change the paradigm from within an industrial organisation, we should
implement a documented Integrated Risk Management System, based on
Australian Standards AS4581, AS 4360, ISO 9000, ISO 14000, AS 4804 and a
security management standard. This will allow workers to essentially

Incorporate into the documentation, a policy of empowering workers to
submit Nonconformance (Opportunity for Improvement) Reports to senior
management, where they have concerns or suggestions, which they consider
should be formally addressed by the organisation.

This will provide a controlled means of improving the Management System
and practices. Where the organisation is certified, the certifying body
always asks for access to Nonconformance (Opportunity for Improvement)
Reports, and enforces their proper close-out.

(Both certified and non-certified organisations are answerable to their
customers, who may perform ‘second party audits’ of the management system
with respect to their contracts).

Implement an Employee Share Ownership Program (ESOP) with an
organisational performance based, share price discounting arrangement for
all employees. This should provide the motivation to improve the
Management System and practices, and thus organisational competitiveness,
with potential beneficial effects for all stakeholders.

The new paradigm should be risk conscious, proactive in implementing risk
controls and taking advantage of opportunities, and empowering.

Acotrel Risk Management Pty Ltd
1st January 2000


"Alan Cotterell" <acotrel@cnl.com.au>

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