top of page

Focus on Paradigms

When a large community shares and adopts a set of beliefs, understandings, interpretations or ways of thinking about a particular aspect of the world or an experience, collectively they call it a paradigm.

In Focus on WHY podcast episode 174 Spring into Leadership with Demetria Hill Sloan, Demetria quoted Joel Barker who said, ‘Vision without action is merely a dream. An action without vision just passes the time, but action with vision can change the world. And so you have to be able to take action, meaningful action.’

At the time of recording in May 2021, I hadn’t heard of Joel Barker so I checked him out and I even connected with him on LinkedIn. The marvels of today’s world of connectivity. I found out that Joel is a futurist, author, lecturer and filmmaker and was the first person to popularise the concept of paradigm shifts in the corporate world.

After spending a year on fellowship meeting and working with visionary thinkers in both North America and Europe, Barker discovered that the concept of paradigms, which at that time was mostly sequestered within the scientific discussion, could explain the revolutionary change in all areas of human endeavour. By 1985, he had built the case and corporations and nations were seeking his advice. In addition to his work on paradigms, he began to focus on a second crucial component for organisations and individuals: the importance of vision.

‘If you don't take the time to think about the long-term implications, you will be seduced by the short term.’

Barker said that people shoot down good ideas because they assume that the future is merely an extension of the past. When you stop to think about that, you recognise that many things we now accept today as being the norm would have met substantial resistance from thoughtful people in the past.

People often resist change and operate from paradigms as they help to establish boundaries and provide the rules for success however what also occurs is that people tend to filter out information that doesn't fit the old paradigm. This prevents progress and evolution. Barker calls this the ‘Paradigm Effect’ and it is attributed to blocking creative solutions to problems and the ability to see what the future holds.

When there is a significant change in how things are done or how you think when an existing model is replaced by a new one, you get a paradigm shift. In terms of mindset and coaching, together with my clients, we look to work on what paradigm shifts need to occur to improve several areas of life including work, relationships, health, friendships and personal development. Knowledge, attitude and skills all combine to make a change in an existing paradigm.

I am currently studying for an ICF accredited coaching certification with one of my past podcast guests, Dr Joanna Martin from episode 308 Mission Critical. The One of Many Coaching Certification programme is specifically designed to focus on making a fundamental paradigm shift which encourages you to become the most effective and impactful version of yourself possible and to then subsequently help other women to do the same.

Martin shared the work of Hofstede, 2021 which identified as part of his cultural dimension study what values are considered more important in society across many countries. The masculine side of this dimension showed preferences for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, competition and material rewards for success. In contrast, femininity stood for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality for life.

Out of a possible score of 100, Japan was considered to be a very masculine country scoring 95. Denmark and Sweden both scored 5 and were therefore deemed highly feminine when looking at their cultural values. UK scored 66. USA scored 62.

As it currently stands, the structure and systems in the workplace in many countries across the world still do not fully support women. They operate from the old masculine paradigm originally created by men for men. Women who adopt the masculine paradigm and tend to adopt the masculine energy ‘superwoman I can do it all’ role. This is not sustainable and will almost always lead to burn out. How do I know? Because I used to identify as superwoman.

Until there is a significant paradigm shift in the workplace, this will continue to be the case. So what is the solution? Martin has one. It is to shift the ‘busyness paradigm’ to a more ‘fruitful’ one adopting what she calls Soft Power. I have spent the last year on a programme called Lead the Change embodying Soft Power in my life and it has been transformational. Having felt a significant paradigm shift, I am now training to be able to help more women understand how they too can make a paradigm shift.

Action Point: How do paradigms show up for you in your world? What paradigm shifts do you need to make?

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page