Focus, but check you paradigm first

I recently attended a course where we investigated how different people perceive their immediate environment, whether that is their social life, business life or home life. The word that was used is a paradigm.

Paradigm: a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community. such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

So what has this got to do with focusing on what you want?

Well, your paradigm can have you focusing in the wrong way, restricting your ability to achieve what you want.

Let me explain a bit further with some examples.

We completed a few exercises where we were all asked to create the same thing. Everyone in the room was given the same brief, but we all produced something completely different. There we obviously similarities, but each had a focus on different elements, which produced different results. We were then asked to complete a similar task in groups, which suddenly made you very aware that each individual has a different perspective. Again each group produced a solution based on the brief, but each was completely different. This time it was the combination of perceptions that produced the result.

So we then went through an exercise which, helped us to deconstruct what those differences were. There are many ways to look at this and there are many studies which go into great depth, but the course we were on had its own construct.  So the result was that we could be generally categorized into four groups based on what was important to us. In other words our paradigm. Even though everyone was different there were specific tendencies which were important to each person.

Our four groups ended up being:

Type 1: those who want to focus on the possibilities, thinking outside the square, optimistic

Type 2: those who want to focus on the detail, create lists, logical solutions that are accurate

Type 3: those who wanted to listen to everyone, seek opinions, get an agreement, investigate the right way

Type 4: those who just wanted to start, take control, win, move forward with what we have

Everyone possesses all of these qualities but we have a tendency to elevate towards one or two of them.

So before you start focusing on what you want, you may want to check which paradigm you have engaged. Or if you are in a group or business, getting the right people together can make all the difference.

  • If your head is in the type 1 space you may think of great ideas and be very optimistic about the possibilities. But if you stay in this space you can end up going around and around exploring possibilities without moving forward.
  • Once you have your idea, you need to engage you type 2 focus, so you can get some detailed plans and determine if it is possible. But don’t get buried in the facts. Be realistic, if it is not going to work go back to type 1 focus.
  • If it is possible you may want to engage type 3 in investigating the human factors, such as is it needed or wanted or what impact it will have. Looking at the social and emotional elements can be important.
  • Then drive it all home with a type 4, who will take the idea, details and drive it home.

If you are able to engage all of your paradigms and shift gears between each task you are on to a winner. Our challenge is not getting stuck in one paradigm and moving through the different elements either by ourselves or in a group.

I am sure you have all been to meetings that are full of great ideas but seem to go nowhere. You will find that there is a dominant mix of the Type 1 or Type 3. Or a meeting where people are saying we didn’t discuss the detail and feel like we didn’t achieve anything. These meeting are normally dominated by type 4, who just want to get on with it, leaving the other types feeling frustrated. Or those meetings where you can’t move forward until you have all the details assembled and are ready to go, normally dominated by a type 2.

Sometimes for meetings to be productive, or for the staff to feel as though you are on the right track, you need to be a conductor of paradigms. As a senior person or person of authority in a meeting we need to be aware of how our own paradigm can dominate a meeting, leaving others feeling left out.

A meeting with a mix of all four paradigms can be very productive, so choose your team carefully. Just remember everyone has all four paradigm types, but they tend to favor one or two of them.  With a good understanding of the paradigm types you can set an agenda that steps through the different paradigms, getting engagement from everybody and shifting gears so you are not getting bogged down in one paradigm. A paradigm meeting is a quick meeting that engages everyone and extremely productive.

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