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4 Key Examples of Paradigm Shifts

Buckminster Fuller wrote, "We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

4 Key Examples of Paradigm Shifts

Buckminster Fuller was an architect, and not just of the future.. He was also a systems thinker and inventor responsible for the Geodesic Dome, the innovative and accurate Dymaxion map, and the futurist Dymaxion car, among many other things.

Fuller also demonstrated his thought leadership by inventing a word: Ephemeralization, the ability of technological advancement to do "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing." According to Wikipedia, his vision was "that ephemeralization will result in ever-increasing standards of living for an ever-growing population despite finite resources."


Nice vision. Bucky was a guy who could hack a paradigm.

Speaking of ephemeralization, let's consider some of the things that a smart phone replaces - stuff we used to need for the functions now provided by a device small enough to carry in a pocket or purse:

  1. Phone
  2. CameraPortable Music Player, aka "Boom box" aka "iPod"
  3. Television
  4. GPS Device
  5. Fax Machine
  6. Radio
  7. Box that plays movies through your TV aka "VHS Player" aka "DVD Player" aka "Blu Ray Player"
  8. Notepad for shopping lists
  9. Rolodex
  10. Calendar
  11. Flashlight
  12. Music Instrument Tuner
  13. Metronome
  14. Video Camera
  15. Scanner
  16. Clock
  17. Thermometer
  18. Chess Set
  19. Pedometer
  20. Level
  21. Radar Detector (via Waze)

And this list could go on, but let's move on to our four recent examples of ephemeralization through paradigm shifts:

  • Elon Musk has given us more car with less (in fact, zero) fossil fuels needed in the Tesla: the first mass-produced electric car that is appealing to car people.
  • Steve Jobs started a revolution with the iPhone, giving us more screen area, and thus a more usable computer, in a pocket-size smart phone by moving the dialing to the screen.
  • The Amazon Kindle was at the forefront of making it possible to carry thousands of books around with you.
  • Netflix has brought thousands of movies into millions of homes without the need for any physical media.

These new Paradigms, in addition to their Paradigm Leaders, also had Paradigm Adapters, and Paradigm Victims, as you'll see in the chart below:
ParadigmFast and cool electric carsTouchscreen smartphonesRead books on a tabletStreaming Movies
Paradigm LeaderTeslaiPhoneAmazon KindleNetflix
Paradigm AdapterPorsche, with the
Mission E (which beget the Taycan)
SamsungBarnes and Noble NookAmazon Prime Video
Paradigm VictimVW with DieselgateBlackberryBorders BookstoresBlockbuster

More about the adapters and victims of these four paradigm shifts:

  • Porsche is playing catch-up as the Paradigm Adapter to the Tesla with its Mission E, which looks pretty awesome but is lagging behind the Tesla Model S by many years in the marketplace, even if it launches when planned. Its parent company, VW, is the Paradigm Victim (by its own doing) - suffering through the repercussions of cheating its way to performance with diesels, a way of economizing our driving that is looking more outdated every year.

  • Samsung as Paradigm Adapter followed Apple to market with products similar enough to Apple to trigger a stream of lawsuits. Blackberry, the Paradigm Victim kept their touch-keyboard to their detriment.

  • Barnes and Noble played the Paradigm Adapter with the Nook e-reader while Borders Bookstores, with no e-reader of their own, wore the hat of the Paradigm Victim and failed.

  • In video, Amazon has been the Paradigm Adapter with its counter to Netflix in the form of Amazon Prime Video. Blockbuster, saddled with a huge inventory of physical movie media, became a Paradigm Victim.

  • Learning to perceive and adapt to new paradigms early can avoid becoming a Paradigm Victim...

    Paradigm Vectors
    The greatest spoils, however, go to those who see the invisible and bring it to life: The Paradigm Leaders - those who can hack a paradigm, not just in themselves, but also in the marketplace.

    “…one lives and analyses data within a frame, unaware that the solution is most often just outside of that frame. Never underestimate the depth of your subjectivity.” Darrell Calkins


    Written by Chris McNeil, Strategic Thought Leadership NLP Coach and Consultant, Founder of Thaut, host of Thought Leadership Studio podcast, and Creator of the Thaut Process of Strategic Thought Leadership. Click here to connect with Chris on LinkedIn (please mention this post in the request) Click here to follow Chris behind the wheel of Thought Leadership Studio on Twitter.

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Buckminster Fuller wrote, "We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

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