(more content will be added to this section over time, so keep coming back)
All my life I’ve used what I call the ‘reasonable man’ approach to problem solving—the assumption that we are all reasonable men and women, and that if we all had the same information we’d come to the same rational conclusions. I know this assumption will get an emotive reaction from most of you—these days the ‘other guy’ is never reasonable, if they were, they’d be in total agreement with our points of view (hope the irony of that comment brought a smile). Fact: when stakeholders have a meaningful exchange of information expanding their knowledge horizons, positions change—have faith in your fellow human beings and give the process a chance.
Here’s what we need to know about paradigms, before we set out trying to change them. First, a definition: a paradigm is a rule, or set of rules, or a model, or a complex set of nested models, that define the “correct” way for seeing or doing something. In our daily lives, both public and private, we’re surrounded by paradigms. We couldn’t get through a single hour of modern life without them. Examples: the way you interact with each of your siblings or parents are each distinct, separate paradigms; the way you wash your face and brush your teeth; inter-group relationships at work; intra-group interactions; different policies within companies (even in the same industry); your personal religious or political beliefs; these are all examples of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of micro and macro paradigms that lock us into a certain way of thinking and behaving…American Capitalism being the macro paradigm that we’ll be focused on changing…but all the paradigms need to be worked together at the same time.
Most paradigms are accidental, they simply evolved, some are passed on to us by our parents: the right way to prepare a roast, our morning routines for getting ready for work (the day that routine is altered is the day you leave your wallet or purse at home or lock your keys in the car or forget that important appointment); the ‘correct’ way to wash a car (no two of us have the same wash patterns, but as individuals we tend to religiously follow our own unique methods over and over again)…these are all examples of the power of paradigms in action…our thinking on autopilot.
Here’s the bad news–all your current paradigms align to support each other like tightly packed trees in a forest. When you try to change just one of the paradigms in your personal mix of rules, all the other paradigms that you haven’t changed exert pressure to push the one you’re trying to change back into place. So, if you’re going to attempt serious changes (paradigm re-engineering), you need to clearly define where you want to get to (what the new paradigms look like) and put all your current paradigms on the table for examination, redefining everything in your life to support getting to your intended destination. If you try doing it piecemeal you end up dragging along all your baggage (and everyone else’s)– trying to drain the swamp from its center becomes a painful journey of a thousand steps and you never really get there. If instead you work backward from the newly defined paradigms (the dry shore), focusing on the minimum that must be done to get you there, the transition can happen remarkably fast without much pain.
An example of what I’m talking about was the Apollo project to get to the moon. When Kennedy first stated his imperative to get to the moon within ten years, the experts were asked if it could be done; they were doubtful. The answer they came back with (from their current paradigms and rules for how things must be done) was maybe in 350 years, but probably never. They were sent back to the drawing boards to rework the problem around the following question: “But if we had to do it, how could we, what would need to change?” They came back the second time with “maybe in 75 years”, but not in our lifetime. They kept at it asking “But if we had to do it in just ten years, how could we, what would need to change?” Through that repetitive process, we had men walking on the moon in just nine short years…through dialog, collaboration, and compromise we made the impossible possible. It is my belief, and I intend to prove it with your engagement and commitment to the process, that it’s possible to bring both sides of the aisle back together again in constructive dialog, mobilize this great nation, and in a very short period of time, have it all again: a thriving free market economy, jobs for everyone willing to work, a new sense of civic pride, capital markets that better serve the nation and the world, a decent standard of living for all Americans, and yes–health care and old-age security for every contributing citizen.Here’s the question we’ll be working on together: “If we had to do it all in just four short years, how could we, what would need to change?”
It can be done, but our paradigms would need to be redefined and aligned to support those objectives; more of the same won’t get us there. We all need to be willing to compromise and change our current beliefs if that’s what’s required to get the job done…or risk being ignored.