How to change, or transcend, paradigms

Thinking in SystemsAt the time, I had already been following the writings of My recent post about Donnella Meadows books being on sale in January prompted me to re-read her essay, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.   In the essay she explains in ascending order of effectiveness the ways to effect change in a system.  I was particularly by her number 2 suggestion: The mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises.  I had to read the following paragraph from that section aloud to the Duchess:

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that.  In a nutshell, you keep pointing out the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep speaking louder and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power.  You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded. 

As you can guess from the title of this post the number 1 way to intervene in a system is: The power to transcend paradigms.  Meadows talks about the power of transcending paradigms in her postscript, A final caution

Having had the list percolating in my subconscious for years has not transformed me into a superwoman. The higher the leverage point, the more the system will resist changing it — that’s why societies tend to rub out enlightened beings.

Magical leverage points are not easily accessible, even if we know where they are and which direction to push on them.  There are no cheap tickets to mastery.  You have to work at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of Not Knowing, In the end, it seems that power has less to do with pushing leverage points than it does with strategically, profoundly, madly letting go.



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