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Paradigms, the sequel. (Review).

* Joel Barker's The New Business of Paradigms, Classic Edition, video, 2001, 26 min., Star Thrower Distribution Corp. (800-242-3220,, $895. Other material: fieldbook, CD, reminder cards.

* Joel Barker's The New Business of Paradigms, 21st Century Edition, video, 2001, 18 min., Star Thrower Distribution Corp. (800-242-3220,, $895. Other material: fieldbook, CD, reminder cards.

"I'm Joel Barker and I'm a futurist."

Those are not promising words, given the track record of the people who appoint themselves as seers. They guess wrong most of the time.

Joel Barker, though, isn't that kind of futurist. He predicts nothing. He offers a simple yet rich prescription that corrects for the myopia of the present and helps businesspeople find the future in the present a little more easily.

Back in the eighties, he made a video popularizing ideas Thomas Kuhn, a historian of science, developed in a slim book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn used the term "paradigm" to mean a logical structure used to organize what scientists know into a coherent view of the world. These paradigms help scientists make sense of the world, but they can also prevent them from noticing anomalies and exceptions that could lead to modifications or the overthrow of the current paradigms.

Barker saw that this tension is played out, for better or worse, in business. Ever since, he's been showing how his adaptation of Kuhn's insights can help businesses and organizations stay open to the future.

According to Barker, his customers have been asking him to put out his basic paradigm pitch for a second generation. Those old videos are getting worn out, and their production values now seem prehistoric. His customers divided on how to do it: the full Monte of nearly 30 minutes with the examples he used in his old video or a briefer version with only contemporary examples. He does not pretend to have the wisdom of Solomon, so he's produced two separate versions of his old message. You get both for one price.

Joel Barker's The New Business of Paradigms, Classic Edition, has a subtitle that suggests a can of Coke. Nevertheless, this is the full 26-minute version with the familiar examples of paradigm thinking such as the card trick and the ultraefficient piston engine vehicle. (And, yes, Barker still drives it around, just like he did in the first video.)

The 21st Century Edition is the short course, 18 minutes in length, with more recent examples of paradigm thinking. For me, the new examples are more interesting than their predecessors. The story of Dell's rise from nowhere based on a different way of looking at the business is fascinating. So is the improbable ascendance of a small Finnish company, Nokia, to a dominant position in the global cell phone market.

One assertion in both videos deserves closer attention. Following Kuhn, Barker says that innovations generally come from outsiders because they have much less to lose than insiders. In science, that may be true, but in business it obscures the common problem of insiders discarding their own innovations.

The Swiss invented the quartz movement for watches but allowed the Japanese to market it and thus lost their dominant position. Xerox, which flourished in part because Kodak rejected copier technology, invented the graphical computer interface, then let Apple and Microsoft exploit it.

The production values are a big change from earlier paradigm tapes. Everything has been burnished and buffed to meet the commercial standards that now apply to training programs. Colors sparkle, the audio is crisp and clear, locations shift, narrative shots use a variety of props and people.

In the classic version, Barker tells his opening story about Galileo not in a study but next to the Grand Canal in Venice. We watch him walk through the ever-present pigeons of the Piazza di San Marco.

This is definitely not your father's training video.

Barker is repeating words he's said a thousand times and more. In the later videos of the old series that stretched from the eighties into the nineties, he seemed bored as he stretched the original ideas to the breaking point.

Here, he's relaxed and smiling, seeming to relish the prospect of introducing new, young audiences to his ideas. Of course he's pursuing a new commercial opportunity, not just a new generation, but there's nothing cynical about it. The change topic is crowded with me-too products; Barker helped define the topic.

We did not receive the support materials in time for this review. When they are available, this evaluation will be updated.


How many people get the opportunity to make a generational update of their ideas? Not many. Joel Barker has made the best of his. The master of paradigmatic thinking in business, Joel Barker's The New Business of Paradigms is an interesting repackaging of his ideas for those who aren't familiar with them. For one price, you get both a short (18 min.) and long (26 min.) version, the latter with the same content as the bestselling video released in the 1980s. You may want to use both for different audiences. Barker has won acceptance for the paradigm viewpoint in business. In this retelling, he performs with mellow enthusiasm that seems right for the occasion.

Bill Ellet is editor of Training Media Review.
Joel Barker's The New Business of Paradigms product rating

Holds viewer interest ****
Acting/Presenting *** 1/2
Diversity NA
Production quality ****
Value of content ****
Instructional value ****
Value for the money ****
Overall rating ****

Outstanding ****


Very good ***1/2

Good ***

Above average **1/2

Average **

Below Average *1/2

Poor *

NA Not applicable

NR Not rated (usually not enough information)
COPYRIGHT 2002 TMR Publications
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Ellet, Bill
Publication:Training Media Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:Best meeting openers. (Review).
Next Article:Leadership is simple. (Review).

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