Last week, I took a much needed respite and one of my goals was to read some books. I have a tendency to read at least one book that I have read in the past that was thought-provoking the first time. I have found that months or years later, when I re-read that book, it spawns even new thoughts and stretches those thinking muscles even more. Last week, I re-read The Theory of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
The author is widely revered as one of the last Century’s great philosophers and thinkers…and some even lineage him to the work done by Plato, his Aristotle, Scorates, (BC) and Descartes in the 17th Century. His essential message was that whatever be believe to true, or the framework that we use to govern our thinking and behavior, are predicated in the times that we live in. As such, they should be expected to not be absolute truths even though they appear to be to us. For example, it was widely accepted that the world was flat or that the universe revolved around the earth (as opposed to the Sun). It is the acknowledgement of the existing paradigm first, and then its questioning that ultimately leads to new and better paradigms.
Why am I bringing this up this week? Most of us agree that the recession that we are in is quite powerful in the context of causing us all to “rethink” our paradigms. How we consume, how we work, how we sell, how we eat, etc. And as we begin to get out of this recession this quarter and seek new and better ways to do all that we do, especially in the context of getting ourselves and our employees to perform at much higher levels, then we must start by deep questioning of how things presently are. Do we do things at work because that’s how they’ve always been done, or because that’s how the competition does it, or because that’s how the industry experts say you should do it? Are there better ways, cheaper and more effective ways, in the world of continued technology-enabled culture and workplace we live in? For example, how much of your workforce really has to come to a physical location each day? Why do people need offices? Why should there be 40-hour work weeks? Why are goals be set annually and not quarterly or monthly? Why do we block people from using the Internet at work?
I do not know the answers to these questions and I am sure the right answer will be unique to each person and organization. But if you read Thomas Kuhn’s book, you’ll appreciate what I did – that most of what we think and do is by habit and could be done much better. And now is the time to explore that possibility.