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(A Video Featuring Joel Barker)

ChartHouse International Learning Corp.  

Reviewed by Grady McAllister

Picture this:  The time is twilight. There is a wide band of blue across the horizon. The place looks like the American west. A camp fire is burning. The blaze lights up the face of Joel Barker. He looks at the viewer and says:

Around the world, across the centuries, men and women, family and friends, leaders and followers have gazed into the flames and dreamed of the future." Some of these people altered the course of human history.  

Barker  continues, "Each change triggered cascades of other changes, new trends, new innovations, that have made the trend significantly different from what was originally dreamed by the fire." Change can wear people out if one wave of change follows another. Yet, some people move from wave to wave and do it with ease and grace. They know how to make a paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift is the key ingredient in understanding change. A paradigm shift means fundamentally altering the way things are done.  The future does not belong just to the people who create a paradigm shift. It belongs to pioneers----the people who are willing to accept high risk and open a new trail to the future. They put the new paradigm into practice.

The pioneers of the American west were such people. They trekked into new territory, mapped it, and helped make it safe. The settlers followed the pioneers. The settlers didn't pull up roots until the pioneers had mapped the new territory and taken the first risks.

In the twenty-first century, it will be the settlers who are at risk. The new century calls for pioneers of time rather than place.  They are the paradigm pioneers.

According to Barker, paradigm pioneers posses these characteristics:

1. Intuition.  The ability to make good decisions with incomplete information.

2. Courage. The willingness to move forward in the face of great risk.

3. A commitment of time.  Shown walking alongside a covered wagon, Barker says, "It's a long walk to Oregon. Paradigm pioneers understand how much time it takes to go from a rough concept to a working paradigm."

Pioneering has its risks. But staying away from the leading edge is an even greater risk: "Those organizations who know how to pioneer are gaining huge leverage over those who do not."

Barker asks two questions . . .

Question: Who has been the leader in creating paradigm shifts during the last 50 years?

Answer: The United States of America.

Question: What nation in the world is the best at paradigm pioneering?

Answer:  Japan.  This is because they are willing to move in early and commit to the long term.

In the U.S.A., says Barker, too many people need too many numbers before anyone will take a risk and make a decision. "That's' settler mentality."

The video concludes with Barker looking up a mountain. As he leaves his morning camp fire,  Barker says:

It makes no difference whether it's an individual or an institution, a corporation or a community. We must learn to be unafraid of uncharted territory to step up to the edge and not turn away. . . For the paradigm pioneers it will always be 'wagon's ho,' time to discover the opportunities that await on the other side of the horizon.

Reviewer's Note: Paradoxically, I recently heard another business guru state something that was the exact opposite of this video: That Americans make quick innovations while the Japanese develop ideas very slowly. This shows how two experts can draw opposite conclusions.

Also,  perceptions can change with the passage of time. Barker's book,  Paradigms : The Business of Discovering the Future , was published in 1993. — G.M.

The Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.

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