“When a Paradigm Shifts, Everyone Goes Back to Zero” – Joel Barker

Paradigm Shift
a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely

Kuhn's classicand
“one conceptual world view is replaced by another”.
from Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions)


When I teach persuasion to my speech classes, I always show the excellent video by Joel Barker, The Business of Paradigms. (I show the “Classic Edition”).

{You might want to read this blog post: The Six Lessons of the Business of Paradigms — Wisdom from Joel Barker).

Joel Barker -- His business is paradigms
Joel Barker — His business is paradigms

For some reason, one phrase really jumped out at me when I watched the video again recently. Here’s the phrase:

“When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero.”
And then (maybe paraphrased), “your past success guarantees nothing.”

This strikes me as true, and truer by the day. I tell my students that the phrase “paradigm shift” has given way to “disruptive technology.” But the principle is quite related: when someone comes along with the next new thing, and it works and catches on (not all new things work, or catch on), then if that new thing replaces your old thing, you are in real, big, massive trouble.

So, always be on the lookout for the next new, big, massive thing. And be prepared for the moment when someone else’s new, new thing puts you back to zero.

It could be coming sooner than you think.


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