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Re-thinking your business paradigms.

TITLE: The New Business of Paradigms

AUTHOR: Joel Barker

PRODUCER: Star Thrower Distribution


LENGTH: 26 minutes (Classic Edition); 18 minutes (21st-Century Edition)

PRICE: $895 for purchase; $200 for 5-day rental; a free review is available

SOURCES: Star Thrower Distribution (, or 800.242.3220

For some, paradigm and paradigm shift may have become trite expressions. They are, however, the only terms we have to express important and large-scale changes or shifts in society and in the corporate environment. Webster's New World Vocabulary of Success (1998) provides a helpful definition:

Paradigm, n. An overall concept accepted by most people because of its effectiveness in explaining a complex process, idea, or set of data. A paradigm is the way that things are in a particular area [e.g., science, technology]; a paradigm shift is a major change in the way things are done and the way people think.

We are increasingly aware of how the larger social paradigm--once dominant--is changing, or transforming, into the one now emerging. In "The New Business of Paradigms," futurist Joel Barker presents a video training product that clarifies the importance of recognizing paradigm shifts in our business and professional lives.

A problem for those moving from one paradigm into another is their inability to see what is before them. Our current--but altering--paradigm consists of rules and expectations, many of which were in place before we were born; any new data or phenomena that fail to fit those assumptions and expectations often are rejected as errors or impossibilities.

Whether savage or scientist, this myopia is surprisingly common. Kodak scientists were uninterested in a demonstration of a copying technology by Chester F. Carlson. Companies such as IBM, GE, and RCA proved equally indifferent. This electrostatic technology came to be called xerography, and the rest is Xerox history. That Carlson was not a reprographics or photographic specialist helps prove one of Barker's main points: Paradigm shifters frequently come from the edge of a field; they are the boundary spanners who are not weighed down by the prevailing paradigm of any discipline.

Barker provides several valuable examples of how this problem has recurred in the business world. Swiss watchmakers, for example, held the largest market share in the watch industry for more than 100 years. Yet in the 1960s, a new technology came into being: the quartz movement and electronic (battery) power. The Swiss timepiece paradigm was founded on the assumption that mechanical technology (e.g., gears, bearings, and springs) would continue ad infinitum. The Swiss, then, were not able to "see" the alternative, competing technology. By embracing the new paradigm for watches, the Japanese completely overtook the world watch market in 10 years.

Can those in records and information management (RIM) learn from the way of thinking presented in Barker's video? It is clear that the increasing focus on information technology and information of all kinds--not merely records-as-information--is straining a long-held set of assumptions. Among these are that all information of value comes from an organization, that records provide all the information needed for management decisions, and that a focus on the conservation of resources through cost savings and avoidance is highly valued by management.

The videotape contains two slightly different versions: the Classic Edition (26 minutes) and the 21st Century Edition (18 minutes). Both versions make use of locations from Peru to Ireland and Switzerland, and they have excellent organizational and production values throughout. To a greater extent than similar video productions, a variety of supportive materials are included; among these are a CD-ROM with training session worksheets, a PowerPoint presentation, questions for use after the video is viewed, and program transcripts. The video itself then is but one facet of a larger educational experience.

This presentation is expensive to own, but a larger organization could make use of the material with any group of its professional-level staff. If the video and supporting material is used effectively, viewers should leave with a compelling need to re-think their personal and professional assumptions.

J. Michael Pemberton, Ph.D., CRM, FAI, is Executive Editor of The Information Management Journal. He may be reached at
COPYRIGHT 2002 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Pemberton, J. Michael
Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Audiovisual Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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Next Article:Celebrate the profession. (From the President).

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