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The Paradigm Shift


I remember a number of years ago watching a video by futurist Joel Barker. It was called “Discovering the Future” and was about the concept of paradigm shifts. Mr. Barker’s video had a profound impact on me. One story in particular about the Swiss watch industry was especially telling. It’s been a while since I last saw the video but I’ll try to get the story straight.

A Shift In The Making

Back in the 1960s, the Swiss watch industry enjoyed global domination in the world of watches. They owned the lion’s share of the market and even more of the profits. Things were going well for this group of businesses. In 1968 a new watch technology was introduced at the International Watch Congress. The quartz watch had been invented. The watch was put on display without a patent at the Congress and Seiko of Japan and Texas Instruments grabbed the technology and ran with it. Over the next decade, this new watch technology decimated the Swiss watch industry, forcing the layoff of thousands of watchmakers, cutting market share, and drastically lowering profits. It was a real game-changer and as Joel Barker put it, a paradigm shift. 

So, the question raised is who invented the quartz technology that led to this shift? As amazing as it may sound, it was the Swiss. They had developed the very technology that was used by others to compete and ultimately beat them. Why didn’t the Swiss employ this technology to enhance their domination and profits and further secure their reputation? It’s because they were operating with a paradigm. The Swiss believed that a quality timepiece was made with finely crafted moving parts. The quartz was merely an interesting concept, a fad that would pass by quickly. As you read, that was not to be the case. The Swiss watch world was changed forever.

Other companies have missed these opportunities. From what I’ve read, Kodak did twice!

Is There An Opportunity?

So what? I believe the COVID-19 Pandemic is having an effect on all of us in much the same way right now. In order to protect ourselves and our fellow neighbors, we’re being asked to take precautionary measures i.e. businesses have temporarily closed, we’re sanitizing our hands and our homes, wearing masks, and not getting together face-to-face. All of this is slowing our lives way down. We’re investing time together as families, finding unique ways to serve others, worship online, and work from home. What paradigm shift is occurring for us right now and how can we benefit from the shift coming out the other side?

Stephen Covey in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote about the 4 quadrants of how we use our time: on those things that are not urgent and not important, those that are urgent and not important, those that are important and not urgent and those things that are urgent and important. He makes the case that, if possible, we should invest our time in important things that are not urgent. So what’s the problem with urgent? I think that when we add urgency to anything we tend not to question whether or not it’s important. I think that’s a question we can ask ourselves about a lot of things as our worlds are slowed down, “Is that really important?”

Please don’t misunderstand me. The number of people who have been sickened and those who have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19 is truly tragic and a tremendous loss. 

The Other Side

We are going to come out on the other side of this. What lessons will we have learned that we want to carry with us into the future? How can we continue to make it about serving others first?

How are we better able to use our time? What kind of flexibility can we employ in our businesses, schools, daycares? Look at what’s happening with oil and air pollution across the country. There are glimpses of potentially great opportunities here. We’re having to slow down, reflect on how we got here, and are able to explore what good we can help achieve as we come out of the pandemic. To try and rush back to what was “normal” before probably won’t work. As many have said, maybe now is the time to create a new “normal”. Where we deepen our bonds with family, friends, co-workers, and those whose paths cross with ours. Where we slow down and stop to think before just charging forward. Where we become more comfortable in our own skin. Where we check and make sure that what we’re striving for is worth it. Where we’re driven out of love and not fear. Where we invest more time in seeking God and His better plans for us.

A Couple Of Questions?

I believe we’re being given an opportunity in the middle of this crisis. I want to get out of the crisis, too. I just don’t want to make it about “getting out of the crisis” while we fly by and miss the greater opportunity. Sometimes we benefit by “staying in the pain.” I wonder what our world will look like? The paradigm is shifting and we have the opportunity to look at life in a whole new way.

How many of us will see this as a “game-changer?”  

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will." Romans 12:2

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