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When the Penny Drops – Paradigm Shifts

We’ve all had an “Ah-ha!” experience at some stage, you know the “when the penny drops” moment. Today’s Web2.0 business environment is still such an unknown quantity to many it’s little wonder the penny hasn’t dropped there for a large majority.

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We’ve all had an “Ah-ha!” experience at some stage, you know the “when the penny drops” moment. Today’s Web2.0 business environment is still such an unknown quantity to many it’s little wonder the penny hasn’t dropped there for a large majority. This isn’t helped much when up and coming marketing stars scramble to reinvent old ideas by cloaking them with trendy new terminology and jargon. Making sense of it all can be frustratingly confusing.

Don’t panic, for inspiration in our personal and business direction it can be comforting and rewarding to look back at some of the old masters of business thought leadership.

One of my first memorable “Ah-ha!” moments was brought about from Napoleon Hill’s best selling masterpiece “Think and Grow Rich”. Inspired by a suggestion from Scottish-American billionaire Andrew Carnegie this book was first published in 1937 during the Great Depression. Like many quality business authors this was not just an opinion but a gathering of wisdom and best practice from decades of research. So powerful was its message to me, it literally changed my life. I changed vocation from being a mechanical engineer and headed into the advertising field almost overnight, a complete shift in personal and professional direction from which I have never looked back.

Another visionary master of literary genius from a business perspective is Stephen Covey. I was revisiting his “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” yesterday and in his first chapter the commentary on “the Power of a Paradigm” really struck a chord with me.

We take from the guidance of others what we choose to. For each of us what is presented and recommended can mean completely different things. Covey refers to this influence as a series of personal paradigms not unlike a road map, and like any maps they are only as good as the information they contain. If we place too much reliance in flawed maps we will be misguided or worse, lost forever.

Covey goes on to say that there are two types of map amongst the many we mentally use to guide ourselves, one set covers realities, the real world stuff, and the other relates to the way things should be, our values. This reinforces what I consistently advocate as part of my business mentoring sessions. I emphasise the importance of a good strategic planning process to help guide company owners through business uncertainties. I always accentuate the importance of identifying and maintaining their list of personal values as an ultimate guide.

What I like about Covey is he does not preach, he takes advise from others, he reads others work profusely and after many years of making mistakes and successes from real world experience has made his own conclusions. These he shares with his readers with an eloquence and conviction that I admire.

This importance of understanding the power of the paradigm and ultimately the “Ah-ha!” moments that contribute to “paradigm shifts” is highlighted beautifully in this piece that I will quote Covey on. It illustrates nicely how we look at things differently, make our own conclusions and are the only ones who can change our lives, our business and our world for the better by being a more positive influence.

Add to this how the smallest piece of information can completely change our point of view and it is a powerful demonstration of the theory in action.

To quote Covey from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday Morning on a Subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all.

It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.