(A Video Featuring Joel Barker)
International Learning Corp.
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:
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
2. Courage. The willingness to move forward in the face of
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
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
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.
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
Also, perceptions can change with the passage of time.
Paradigms : The Business of Discovering the Future , was
published in 1993. G.M.
Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.