Paradigm Shifts in LOs LO25112

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 07/27/00

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to you all.

The transformation of an organisation into a LO involves one or more
paradigm shifts. But the transformation itself involves far more than
paradigm shifts. The reason why it is so easy to think of this
transformation as a paradigm shift, is that both happen as an emergence.

The etymology of the English word paradigm is based on the Greek
"para"=beside/beyond and "deiknymi"=show. The word in Greek actually
meant pattern or example.

The paradigm as a formal or technical concept of philosophy was introduced
by Thomas Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962). While doing
research in the history of science, he became aware that the evolution of
science is not gradual all the way, but interspaced sparsely by periods of
abrupt and vast changes. He argued that these saltotoric periods were
caused by a shift from one paradigm to another.

So what is a paradigm? Many attempts have been made to define it
formally. The common feature in all these definitions is that a paradigm
is a set of thinking patterns woven into one web. These thinking patterns
are extraordinary achievements in human thinking among a certain
community. The web is shared among the members of that community so as to
communicate about all things which are IMPORTANT to them. The web is not
merely for talking about trivialities.

Perhaps a description will suite us better. A paradigm is used by a
certain community to facilitate communication within it. The paradigm
which Kuhn had in mind concerned communication within the scientific
community. A community of believers like a church or synagogue has a
religious paradigm to facilitate communication. Likewise people working
together in a corporation need a corporate paradigm to be able to
communicate effectively. Even the smallest organisation in a country like
a family needs a family paradigm for effective communication. The same
goes for the nation as the largest organisation in the country which needs
a national paradigm.

Perhaps a metaphor will also help. A paradigm is like the Telephone
Exchange (TE) within an organisation. Initially, the TE serves the
organisation well. But as the organisation and thus its communication
needs grows, the full capacity of the TE is reached despite upgrades to
it. Upon further growth, severe problems in communication are
experienced. Some members cannot reach others timely for necessary making
changes. Chaos increase steadily. Eventually management decides to
install a new TE with advanced capacity and quality. Initially everybody
has difficulties using the new TE. But gradually the use of the new TE
begin to normalise once again. A "paradigm shift" is metaphorically the
actual "installing" of a new TE. It is neither the old TE nor the new TE.

Kuhn stressed the cause of a paradigm shift. It is an increasing failure
of the existing paradigm to accommodate new thinking patterns of an
increasing number of individuals in that community. In terms of the
telephone exchange as metaphor, it is an increasing failure to make phone
calls. When a certain "richness in thinking" has been reached, the
paradigm shift is often initiated by a seemingly innocent discovery. This
discovery does not fit at all into the existing paradigm, but eventually
it proves to be a backbone achievement in the coming paradigm. The
driving force for this initiation of the shift is the desire of humans to
communicate, even about novel things and especially about outstanding
achievements in them.

Let us gradually paint a richer picture. Few people are aware that a
paradigm shift is an emergence following a bifurcation (forking event).
The existing paradigm of a community belongs to some high level in their
mental complexity. The inability to communicate novel mental discoveries
or creations drive the thoughts of the community at that high level of
mental complexity to the "edge of chaos"where bifurcations happen. When
the bifurcation point for a paradigm has been reached, the paradigm can
either emerge constructively or immerge destructively. The emergence lead
to a complexer paradigm of the next higher level of complexity by
resolving old as well as new novel achievements into one new web.
However, the immergence lead to simpler fragments of the present paradigm
which habitate lower levels of mental complexity.

The paradigm bifurcations in the scientific community which Kuhn had
observed, all resulted in constructive emergences in which past paradigms
were resolved. But there were also paradigm bifurcations which resulted
into destructive immergences. They can be observed by widening the history
over a longer time span. Each of these immergences retarded the evolution
of science for some time.

This breakdown of an existing paradigm at the edge of chaos rather than
shifting it into a new paradigm ought to be seriously kept in mind when
managing any community. We can even speak in a Miltonian manner of a
"paradigm lost" as the ordinate dual of a "paradigm shift". The "paradigm
lost" is like a complete breakdown in the Telephone Exchange (TE).
Firstly, the members of the community cannot communicate through the TE as
they used to. Secondly, they do not expect a replacement by a superior
TE, but expect at most a makeshift repairing of the existing TE.

The net effect is that the important achievements in a high level of
mental complexity are reduced to personal contemplations while important
achievements of past eras become the norm. The focus turn form the future
to the past. This lowers seriously the motivation of many members to
advance. A common symptom will be the lack of communication among most
members of that community on any novel discovery or creation, with the
exception of bragging about "breakthroughs" in a banal manner.

A community which experienced a "paradigm lost" becomes very vulnerable to
any deluge of chaos from its environment. It does not matter whether that
community is a family, a society, a church, a corporation, a branch of
science, a nation or even a civilisation. When reaching the edge of chaos
once again, that community usually becomes extinct rather than
experiencing a paradigm shift back to the paradigm which it has lost.

The LO discipline Shared Vision (SV) tells us, among other things, about
important achievements to be expected in future, based on the achievements
in the past. Thus, in order to communicate effectively about the SV, an
appropiate paradigm is necessary. Should an organisation which
experienced a "paradigm lost" want to emerge into a LO, the tensions and
flows during the intended emergence may destroy the organisation rather
than transforming it into a LO. Thus it becomes important through Team
Learning (TL) first to "reverse" the "paradigm lost" before attempting the
emergence into a LO. This "reverse" is not to shift into exactly the
paradigm which had been lost, but to enter the higher level of complexity
once again by another paradigm fitting to it.

The Law of Requisite Complexity entails that a paradigm shift cannot
happen before the community has reached the requisite maturity in that
high level of mental complexity. Any attempt to push for a premature
paradigm shift will fail and may even revert into a "paradigm lost".
However, once maturity has been reached, the paradigm shift to the next
higher level of complexity becomes inevitable. It needs only one tiny
"butterfly flapping its wings" to trigger the shift. Furthermore, the Law
of Requisite Complexity entails that the shift cannot skip one or more
levels of complexity. Each level in the sequence has to be occupied.
Thus the Law of Requisite Complexity sets an internally determined pace to
each shift.

Trying to skip a paradigm or two when reversing a "paradigm lost" so as to
make up for time lost is very tempting, but also perilious to that
organisation. Hence all the members of a learning team ought to be patient
so that everyone can catch up in reversing the "paradigm lost". Each
member should be encouraged to participate in dialogues on specifically
achievements important to him/her self until the whole team is aware why
the achievements are important to that member. The very commuting of such
important achievements will determine the paradigm sought.

The change in richness of complexity during a paradigm shift varies
depending on the community and the point of time at which it happens. The
complexer (rather than the more numerous) the community, the complexer
the paradigm shift. This lead to characterisations of levels of complexity
such as a new era, a new dispensation and a new age. Sometimes such a
"grand paradigm shift" itself gets a name like the famous name
"Renaissance". However, because of this increasing complexity in the
shift, not only does the shift take longer time, but also do fewer persons
become aware of it as an actual shift rather than a gradual change.

Let us now focus on those "grand paradigm shifts" which involve humankind
itself as the community. I firmly believe that humankind is at present
experiencing a "grand bifurcation". The emergence of global
telecommunication like Internet itself is not a paradigm shift. But its is
an indication that humankind has reached the requisite level of complexity
for this "grand bifurcation" to happen. Should it fail into a destructive
immergence, it will bring humankind close to what is know as Armageddon.
If it succeeds into a constructive emergence, it will be like only one or
two similar "grand paradigm shifts" in the known history of humankind.
The one which we have sufficient historical documentation on, happened
approximately 2500 years ago and took some 300 years.

It happened in many continental regions like Asia Minor, South Asia, East
Asia and Central America. It happened with almost an eerie sinchronicity
because the various civilisations involved had little influence, if any,
on each other. However, this sinchronicity actually points to the Law of
Requisite Complexity. In each of these continental regions humankind has
evolved to the requisite level of complexity so as to emerge to the new
level of complexity in humanity. Among the Greek Islands and Asia Minor
next to them it may be called the Grecian Awakening. It began somewhere
close to the time of Homer and was probably initiated by Homer's two epic
poems as the "butterfly with flapping wings".

Perhaps it may be described as the shift from the childhood of human
creativity to its youthful phase. This allows us then to describe the
present "grand paradigm shift" as the shift from the teenhood to the
adulthood of human creativity. Another possible description of the
previous shift may be the "paradigm shift from implicity to simplicity".
Hence the present one may be described by the "paradigm shift from
simplicity to complexity". Present "hot" terms like "post modernism" are
merely facets of this complexity and no single on of them can afford an
actual description of this complexity

Many people think that Internet will bring people closer to a global level
of understanding. However, it is more complex than that. Internet allows
many more people to communicate interactively. But Internet merely
supplies the hardware and software for billions of messages to be sent.
In order for these billions of messages to become meaningful to the
majority of surfers on Internet, they will need an appropriate paradigm.
They will need, metaphorically speaking, a new "spiritual telephone
exchange" extending over all sorts of barriers. The 2500 year old
paradigm of simplicity has become an insufficient "spiritual telephone
exchange". It needs to be replaced by the paradigm of complexity. This
replacement will have to happen like all other paradigm shifts, namely by
way of an emergence.

Even though the shift from simplicity to complexity is pending by way of
the Law of Requisite Complexity for humankind, it is foolish and arrogant
by the very same LRC to expect every human to emerge in the next couple of
decades to shift from simplicity to complexity. Trying to force such
expected shifts will only add insult to injury. However, whenever any
human has developed the tacit knowledge that this shift is inevitable,
this human needs to be guided by loving care. Thus midwives in "paradigm
shifts" need to know more about this pending grandest of paradigm shifts
so as to avoid hindering it by lower ordered paradigm shifts. In other
words, thinking of humankind as a possible LO, what ought the Shared
Vision on this paradigm of complexity be?

Answering this question is like trying to look into the future. If I have
to look into my own future, I know that I will die. I do not know exactly
when and I do not know exactly in what manner. I may have cancer and thus
expect a couple of years more, but I may get killed in a car accident this
very after noon. The reason why I am so sure about death itself, is that
it is a phenomenon which will affect each of us. It is an essential

Husserl succeeded to dig deeper in phenomena by discovering that every
phenomenon has certain patterns unique to it such that without these
patterns the phenomenon ceases to exist. These patterns are called
essentials and finding them is called phenomenology. We will now have to
take one step further and seek for "essential phenomena" too rather than
only "essentials of a phenomenon". We will actually have to focus on
reality itself as the grand phenomenon and seek for the essentials of
reality itself.

I think that the following patterns are essential to reality and thus
perhaps main patterns in the paradigm of complexity itself.

Mechanical models in thinking will be replaced by organic systems
thinking. Both the system and its environment will together be kept in
mind as an ecosystem with the emphasis on sustainability. Symbiosis will
replace competition as the main mode of establishing relationships of

The focus will shift from a world owned by humans to a world which owes
humankind nothing and to which humans owe their stewardship. The forcing
of nature to conform to culture will transform into a spontaneous
partnership with nature. Human like (anthropomorphic) descriptions of
reality will be superseded by metaphors involving phenomena from all
levels of complexity.

Knowledge Management will not be so excessively disciplinary any more.
Generating data where mountains of data already exist will cool off. KM
will be more multi- and inter-disciplinary. Furthermore, the "holes"
between existing disciplines will become readily explored -- digging for
gold where nobody has expected gold before. KM will especially become
"transdisciplinary" in the sense that the basic dependence of any one
discipline on all the others will be acknowledged.

Equity will be sought in more than only equalities. The use of
equivalence relationships to establish identity will be extended to
include "one-to-many-mappings" by means of order relationships. The
acceptance of "variety in unity" in every realm of reality will become
standard practice.

The spontaneous self-organisation of systems will be preferred in all
levels of complexity rather than prescriptive behaviour by force. Changes
will be considered as primarily irreversible. Reversing the irreversible
change of any system will require a holistic awareness to the systems'
field where most changes will have to be initiated.

The focus will also be on harmonising the complementary nature of duals
(male-female, rich-poor, analysis-synthesis, individual-community,
worker-employer, true-false, etc.) rather than exploiting dialectical
conflicts between them. Exclusivity (the "either ... or ..." design) will
be used less in favour of inclusivity (the "both ... and ... " design).

Creativity will become the most valuable asset of every human. The bottom
line and bench mark in traditional activities like education, economics
and politics will be creativity. The majority of investments will go into
activities which enhance creativity. The strategy to generate maximum
profits (capitalism) will not be the ultimate measure of success any more.

The fitness and resilience of each person's spirituality will become of
decisive importance to overcome the intimidation of complexity.
Compassion and care will make spirituality effective in complexity.
Spirituality will also become necessary so as to harmonise in every person
the faculties of leadership and followership.

Last, but not the least, the distinction between destructive creativity
(anarchy) and constructive creativity (constructivism) will become
paramount. Destructive creativity will not be combatted with destructive
creativity, but will become diminished by facilitating constructive
transformations. This will have vast influence on our perceptions of
truth, morals and ethics.

Will economical, political and religious leaders adapt themselves soon
enough to these main patterns in the paradigm of complexity? The answer
does not lay in ad hoc adaptation by only leaders. These patterns have to
become propriety for leaders and followers alike through emergences by way
of bifurcations at the "edge of chaos" (stressing and plasmodial
conditions). I have stressed that rushing any bifurcation may easily
result for followers a "paradigm lost" rather than a "paradigm shift".

But I have also to stress that delaying a bifurcation may cause so much
psychological stress in followers that they become spiritually unhealthy
to cope with bifurcations even at the appropriate conditions. The best by
far which all leaders can do, is to gain experience themselves and
encourage their followers to gain experience too in all kinds of minor

I would encourage leaders to bear the following in mind when going for
experiences in bifurcations. Followers should never ask permission to do
what is true, correct and good, but encouraged to gain experiences as soon
as the opportunities arrive. The reason is that truth, morality and
ethics manifest themselves through emergences rather than "being out
there". Beware not to judge experiences in bifurcations and never
criticise experience in any bifurcation before it has been gained. Avoid
prescriptions and recipes in controlling bifurcations, but rather act as
midwives with compassionate care when guiding followers through
bifurcations to emergences.

Leaders will begin to experience more and more that the best kind of
environment to foster the experiecing of emergences by any individual, is
the "web of learning organisations". Fortunately, nature itself is by far
still a Learning Organisation (LO). However, it is in all the realms of
human culture that the emergence of LOs will become of strategic
importance so as to promote the "web of learning organisations". Thus
every leader will sooner or later have to contemplate the emergence of the
organisation (of which he/she is the leader) into a LO. When this LO has
emerged his/her leadership itself will become radically different. Thus
the leader self has to explore paradigm shifts in leadership as far as
possible so as to become prepared for the vast coming changes in his/her
won leadership.

Perhaps one day we will succeed much better in articulating this
phenomenon which Peter Senge articulated with his concept of a Learning
Organisation. Nevertheless, what we have at present is Senge's
articulation. I believe it is worthy of study by all leaders of all
organisations in all kinds of communities. The idea is not to become
indoctrinated by such a study so as to promote the emergence of LOs. The
idea is to become aware how tightly connected paradigm shifts and emerging
LOs are to each other.

Its like thinking of both
* an atom with a nucleus in the centre and electrons making up
  the rest of the atom, and
* our solar system with the sun in its centre and the planets,
  moons and ateroids making up the rest of the solar system.
and seeking how they are tightly connected. For example, each
has an entity in the centre through which vital interactions are
channeled. To become aware of such a node through which
interactions are channeled is a vast preparative step in
understanding the nature of any paradigm itself.

May you all be blessed in exploring paradigm shifts in LOs.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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