by Elmarie Bouwer


Raw intense fear pricked his skin and fissured up his back. He had to will his heart to slow down its wild beating, much like when he’s outmanoeuvring a wild animal, intent on his demise.

“Hey”, the pale young man on his left babbled in that strange tongue, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost! It’s only another honking bleedin’ horn…!” He slapped him on his often painful shoulder while laughing.

Since he’s come here yesterday with these strange men, he found himself in an alien world that he understood very little of. He could not figure out its towering temples [high rises for living and trading], hard unfriendly roads [tar] and non-living moving things [vehicles and ships].

But the worst was the awful racket. It kept him leaping with fright! The sounds were even more terrifying than anything else he’s had to endure so far. Back home was nothing like this place. Nothing.

Suddenly he saw a man pushing a strange thing full of bananas. He couldn’t believe his eyes! How could one man carry so unbelievably many bananas?

“That’sh a wheelbawwow with bananash”. The pale one again, muttering with a mouth full while pointing at a vendor pushing a cart with a yellow mound of bananas on it.

Since this was the first time he understood anything really, he was eager to communicate that. Excitedly his head bobbed up and down. Yes, now he’ll have something to tell his village! 1


 All he could remember back home in the Malayan mountains where he was the tribal chief of what resembled a stone-age village, was the huge number of bananas one man could transport.


Paradigms. What are they?

 Many definitions exist, but it’s basically how you think and why you think like you do.

It’s the composite structure framed by the totality of your beliefs, good and bad, that directly influence how you perceive the world

The truth of how paradigms influence our view of the world, is amply illustrated above by Arie de Geus’s story in “Living Company” [slightly…ahem… edited] in which an intelligent tribal chief from an isolated, near stone-age village in the Malayan Mountains, was taken out of his home turf and plonked into the concrete jungle of Singapore with its high rises, tarred roads and vehicular and naval traffic as part of an experiment.

Our chief couldn’t understand much of anything he observed since there was no previous experience in his mind to tack new incoming data to. The only image he could relate to was that of bananas since his paradigm was that of village life in a primitive setting. Even after being back in his village for three weeks, the only thing he could remember was the banana incident. He could only see what he knew!

It seems that the human mind cannot comprehend what it has not experienced before. Even though only a theory, this view seems credible and experience shows this to be true in the examples I’ll quote later on. Our chief certainly bears this out.

The good, the bad and the downright ugly

Paradigms can be both good and bad. And become ugly.

Good ones give you an easy recipe to order your life by and solve problems that regularly occur within set parameters. They allow you to develop positive expectations about your world based on prior assumptions and experiences.

But when fixed paradigms cause mental blocks that restrict you from assimilating or even seeing new information or solving some gritty problem, they are bad and can become dangerous. Bad ones keep you from seeing important truths or reality like it really is. When they withhold you from seeing changes in your environment you must react to, they’re not only bad, they become ugly.

You see, once you have a vested paradigm (a.k.a. your mind so damn well made up about something), you will automatically ignore information impulses beyond this set of beliefs. That was our chief’s experience. And not only his, but every person’s who has failed to see to see the new and adapt to it if needs be.

Don’t believe me? Read this…

 Somewhere in the 1940’s, a guy demonstrated a new photographic process to a major photographic manufacturer in America. There was no camera or film in his demonstration, but rather a box, charging device, light bulb and black powder instead. The idea behind the invention was that it allowed one to make an exact reproduction of the original image.

The picture his crude “tools” reproduced was dim, but traceable.

The manufacturer could not see the sense of this invention as this did not really square with his idea of photography, and coldly declined interest. So he became one of many firms that passed up the opportunity of what would eventually become the multi billion dollar photocopying or xerography industry.

Why did he pass up such an unbelievable chance?

 Because he could not see past his own frame of reference, made up by the established modes of photography. His mind was so set by the accepted way of doing things he simply could not see the great opportunity glaring at him.

He could not see or accept new data (like our chief), because it fell outside his paradigm. This is called the paradigm effect and when that is so strong that you are unable to see what’s under your nose, you are said to suffer from paradigm paralysis.

 And examples of paradigms preventing people from moving ahead and moving onto the new (and sometimes better!) abound. Just take shopping for example.

In the 90’s, Jeff Bezoz founded Amazon and online shopping was born. But the concept also required an EBay and the Social Media platforms to catapult it into the wider public’s frame of reference before a significant shift in thinking started taking place and more and more people began shopping online. Now, it’s part of a global culture.

It was just unthinkable that you could shop outside of a shop that you did not drive or walk to!

Now, this bound to happen again and again. To you and me…


 Unless you consciously change it. Shift the rails your paradigms glide on without losing any data already programmed in your thinker. When that happens, that you are able to change a current paradigm to a new one, it is referred to as a paradigm shift.

Time for new treads

Okay, you see the need to change or broaden some of your paradigms, but how do you do it?

There are many ways, but I like the one detailed by Mauritz Bekker of the Entrepreneurial Business School (EBS). He says though that it’s important to realise that paradigm shifting is a process that’s not going to happen overnight.

He sees this process as taking place in the following phases:


  • Phase 1: Start to challenge existing paradigms with contradictory facts.
  • Phase 2: You begin to see a discrepancy between what you believe and what you   experience.
  • Phase 3: By asking the question ”Why must I stick to something if it doesn’t work for me?”, you’ll manage to disconnect from the existing paradigm.
  • Phase 4: The actual paradigm shift takes place as you keep focusing on a new desired outcome / new knowledge.
  • You can now use the extended  / new paradigm to recognise & solve any problems you might have.

Actions that will jumpstart and accelerate this process, include:


  • Adding new knowledge to what you already know. Never stop learning.
  • Always asking questions and never accepting mediocre explanations.
  • Observing with the aim to learn. Focus on what interests you. This way, you’ll perceive things others will miss.
  • Zoom in on new inventions / or research findings.
  • Sharpen your ability to perceive with all five senses.
  • Develop your intuition.
  • Challenge your current beliefs. 2

 Are you an inmate in Prison Paradigm without knowing it?




  1. A free retelling of Arie de Geus’s story of the tribal chief in “The Living Company”.
  2. Bekker, M. The Successful Entrepreneur, 2009. p.54.



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