Tag Archives: Joel Barker

On Innovation, Paradigm Shifts, and Intentional (Or Unintentional) Blindness

Here’s an article by Ryan McCarthy that describes how Nokia could have been ahead of the game on the iPhone type phone, and then dropped the ball: Counterparties: Why big companies are bad at innovating.

…as early as 2000, the Finnish phone maker had designed a proto-iPhone – complete with a color touch screen and geo-location, gaming, and e-commerce capabilities.  

This McCarthy article, quoting Peter Thiel, (actually, this “criticism” is kind of swirling around on the internet right now) describes how big companies might just get too big to innovate.  The bigger they get, the more “set” they become, and the more blind they become to a great new idea – even if the idea comes from someone within their own company.

This has been written about by many, with years of recommendations about “skunk works,” secret teams…  But it is just further proof that we get so very , very set in our ways.

It reminds me of the story of the invention of the battery powered watch.  I listen to it from the “Paradigm Shift” guy, Joel Barker, every semester, on his video The Business of Paradigms.  He tells how a man in a Swiss watch company invented this new fangled watch, and then showed it to the folks in his company.  “That can’t be a watch – it doesn’t have a mainspring,” went the refrain.  Well, the rest of the world saw it at some international watch convention, Seiko ran with it, and the Swiss lost their dominance in the blink of an eye.

Yes, there are a lot of bad new ideas out there.  And, I assume that someone at Nokia said “this is a bad idea” with that new fangled phone.  What we know is that they did not develop the idea.  But others did.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


The Six Lessons of the Business of Paradigms — Wisdom from Joel Barker

Joel Barker — his business is paradigms

Each semester, when I introduce persuasion to my speech students, I show the excellent video The Business of Paradigms by Joel Barker.  (Bob Morris has an interview with Joel Barker on his blog here).  It is a terrific video, capturing the challenge of “paradigm shifts.”  Barker gives full credit to Thomas Kuhn and his seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  At the end of the video, Mr. Barker shares the six lessons about paradigms:

1) Paradigms are common.
2) Paradigms are useful.
3) Don’t let your paradigm become the paradigm.
4) Outsiders bring new paradigms.
5) Shifting paradigms takes courage.
6) You can choose to change your paradigm.

Each time I watch it, I realize all over again that actually changing someone’s mind, attitude, or behavior — actually persuading someone– is a truly daunting task.

And of the six on his list, the one that I consider to be most important is this one:  Outsiders are the key for a true paradigm shift.  He demonstrates this in his video, and it boils down to this insight:  it takes a true outsider to even ask the questions that need to be asked to bring about true change.