CE#667: Why The Paradigm Shift In Management Is So Difficult (Forbes)

Steve Denning, Contributor

Why The Paradigm Shift In Management Is So Difficult

In 1539, Copernicus overturned more than a thousand years of doctrine that the sun revolves around the earth with his theory that the earth is one of a number of planets revolving around the sun. No amount of tweaking the old theory led to progress. Scientists had to look at the problem in a totally different way to solve the problem.

In 1865, Gregor Mendel presented a paper in Moravia that eventually jettisoned decades of scientific work in genetics. The prevailing theory was that all genetic characteristics were passed from parents to the next generation in an average fashion. Mendel’s work in pea plants showed that genetics works over multiple generations with hybrid, dominant and recessive genes. No amount of tweaking the old theory led to progress. Scientists had to look at the problem in a completely different way to solve the problem.

In 1982, scientists knew that stomach ulcers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and stomach acid. So they ignored Barry Marshall, an Australian physician, when he presented evidence that peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium living in the stomach. They knew that no bacterium could possibly live in the human stomach, given the presence of acid as strong as that found in a car battery. The breakthrough that won for Marshall the Nobel Prize for Medicine didn’t come by improving the conventional theory of stomach ulcers. He had to look at the problem in a totally different way to solve the problem.

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