Exploring the experience of the pioneers of change
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The world of work with Western society appears to be undergoing a major change. The literature has described this phenomenon as a change from an industrialbased economy to a knowledge-based economy. This change will represent a complete transformation of the world of work; some suggest that everything we have come to accept and know as normal will change. Our present society seems to be in a period of transition. It is a time with many challenges and problems, many of which cannot be solved with thinking patterns from an old industrial-based economy. A fundamental shift in thinking patterns consistent with a new emerging world of work must take place. This change in thinking represents a fundmental shift from traditional and linear ways of seeing the world (worldview), to more holistic ways of seeing the world. In this investigation the word paradigm was used to define how people see their world. A paradigm shift is defined as a change in how a person sees their world: a change from an old to new or different way of viewing the world. Those individuals who are the first to shift their paradigm are called paradigm pioneers. These individuals do not only shift their ways of seeing the world, but they also begin to act and behave in ways consistent with the new paradigm. Thus far the research literature has adequately described the concepts of paradigms and paradigm shifts. However, little is known regarding how people actually and eventually make a shift. As it will be important for each individual to make a personal paradigm shift, then it will be extremely valuable to learn more about the process itself. The purpose of this investigation was to explore these issues in more detail and specifically, describe the experience of paradigm shifts and explore the experience of paradigm pioneers. A qualitative research methodology involving in-depth interviews was used to investigate the experiences of four participants identified as paradigm pioneers. It is interesting to note that the participants in this study did not describe an allencompassing paradigm shift. In fact, each participant, defined a paradigm shift in several different ways. They did relate several examples of paradigm shifts. However, even among these examples, there was a high degree of variability. The findings of this investigation centered upon the participants' experience as pioneers. Each pioneer shared many of the same qualities, the first quality of which described how these pioneers dealt with change. I called this a change-sense quality. The pioneers viewed change in an open and positive manner, and were also aware of change taking place in their world. Finally, they displayed an understanding of change, and a bias to take positive action in the face it. The participants also shared an inner quality. The four pioneers demonstrated a personal purpose and vision, and were selfdirected individuals. They also had an innate curiosity which translated into a love of learning. They also displayed a quality where relationships with others were highly valued. Relationships were important to the pioneers because they played a support role to help them deal with the challenges of being a pioneer. Pioneers also valued relationships because, they relied on others to make change happen. The above mentioned qualities enabled pioneers to be effective in a changing world of work. The findings from this investigation have many implications for research and practice. First, the concept of paradigms and paradigm shifts must be further researched. A great deal more must be learned in order to better understand the kind of shift individuals must make to be effective in the new world of work. Second, the qualities displayed by pioneers are important for all members of the world of work to develop. The qualities shared by pioneers appeared to represent an enduring set of traits that can possibly help individuals deal more positively with uncertainty and rapid change taking place in today's North American world of work.