In 1962 Professor Thomas Kuhn coined the term ‘paradigm shift’ in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
A ‘paradigm’ is a framework for success at achieving a given task.
A ‘paradigm shift’ occurs when one framework becomes irrelevant and another framework takes over.
Kuhn was referring to the scientific world, but his concept of paradigm shift caught on in the worlds of social science and business.
Social science and the business world use the concept of a paradigm shift to explain those critical changes in society that happen when the status quo way of approaching a task becomes antiquated and is replaced by a different way to succeed at that task.
The buggy whip analogy is often used to explain paradigm shift.
Once upon a time, people travelled by horse and buggy. To prod the horse on, the driver used a buggy whip.
Imagine a company that produced buggy whips. They made a high-quality product and were able to sell it at a low price. The company workers made a good wage and the company owner made a good profit.
All was well with the buggy whip company until… the automobile came along.
The old paradigm was travel by horse and buggy.
The new paradigm became travel by automobile.
Suddenly no one wanted to travel by horse and buggy. Everyone wanted an automobile.
It didn’t matter that the buggy whips were of high quality. It didn’t matter that the buggy whips were affordable. No one wanted buggy whips anymore. The company owner would go broke and the workers would lose their jobs, unless…
Unless the company changed over its operations to support the new way of travel. Perhaps the company could change over to producing, say, steering wheel covers.
The changing paradigm of travel forced the buggy whip company to adapt or fail.
The COVID-19 pandemic may force a great deal of change in the world.
In her article ‘COVID-19 Feelings’, Jacqueline Yap wrote, “I am not anxious for after the virus. I think the societal changes this virus will bring will be good for the country. Hopefully, there will be more access to working from home and distance learning.”
The COVID-19 crisis has forced many to work from home, remote order and do a curbside pick up groceries and other goods, engage in distance learning in grades from K- college, and re-evaluate healthcare services, priorities, and costs. All of these could all become permanent changes in the way our society markets and delivers health, business, and educational services.
The most critical COVID-19 inspired issue of all will be the paradigm shift to some form of a universal income.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Karen Arnold for the “Horse Drawn Carriage Clipart” image .