Paradigm Paralysis

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Nov 192015

Paradigm Paralysis


We need to open ourselves up to the possibility of a new paradigm of real-time, collaborative, networked learning.

paradigmAs you read through this year’s Training Industry Report, it no doubt will become clear that we find ourselves in the midst of a classic paradigm shift. In “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn argued that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions in which one conceptual worldview replaces another.When this happens, a paradigm shift occurs, and our collective perception is forever altered; i.e., the world is not flat, and the planets do not revolve around the Earth.

We all know that there cannot be change without learning: Learning and change are two sides of the same coin. The paradox we face today is that the Learning profession itself has experienced little change since the founding of the University of Bologna in 1088. For almost a millennium, our industry has built up a litany of orthodoxy that has infected us with paradigm paralysis: an inability or refusal to see beyond current models of thinking.

As Internet technology proliferates, creating a global digital nervous system that is redefining how we connect, communicate, coordinate, collaborate, and take collective action, we continue to be blinded by our own biases of course, content, classroom, and curriculum as the foundation of learning. Instead of opening ourselves up to the possibility of a new paradigm of real-time, collaborative, networked learning, we are falling into default by merely seeking to leverage disruptive technology to improve individual classroom training. Jay Cross says it best: “We have to shift our thinking from learning as filling people’s heads with knowledge to learning as people tuning their networks.”


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Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752 paradigm