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Are You Ready for an Agile Paradigm Shift?

Are You Ready for an Agile Paradigm Shift?

What is your management mental map? Can you make the shift to an Agile mindset? Or have you already? Do you live with a 21st Century Agile paradigm or a 20th Century bureaucratic management paradigm? Well written studies are now being regularly released that help explain how we are in the midst of a complete change in the theory and practice of management. Business thought leaders such as Steven Denning, author of Radical Management, Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century observes that the transformation of management mindsets and methods is no less than a Copernican Revolution with all the characteristics of an actual Thomas Kuhn-like paradigm shift. In his most recent Forbes column, Denning says that this revolution represents a whole new cosmology of management. Haydn Shaughnessy in his book Shift describes in detail the transformation to the “elastic enterprise” and says “the way in which we choose to work together (the enterprise) is shifting.” I recently wrote about some of the broad implications of this shift from the era of the Industrial Revolution to the era of Innovation Revolution. To even consider changing we need to look deeper at what it means to shift our paradigms.

Paradigms are the framework for what psychologists call our adaptive unconscious and what Malcolm Gladwell calls in Blink our second-brain. They allow us to operate efficiently and unconsciously and are like the air we breathe or the water we swim in. But like the young fish that asks the old fish, “where is the water?” we cannot easily detect our paradigm and they are hard to change.

To consider paradigm changes we can look at the history of science as Kuhn did. Think of how Einstein supplanted Newtonian physics and Max Planck’s quantum theory revolutionized particle theory. Each scientific revolution had a period of empiricism whose observations both helped enhance the existing paradigm but also produced what Kuhn called “anomalous data.” Observations that did not fit into the paradigm accumulated until their weight created a kind of mental tipping point. A new paradigm is then discovered to better accommodate all the observed data.

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