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Talking Past Each Other: Paradigms & Interests

This past week I was invited to speak at the  National Women’s Leadership Summit sponsored by the Louisiana Center for Women and Government.

The conference focused on the issue of energy. Earlier in the week I attended a conference sponsored by the ILR school called, Jobs. Justice. Climate.

After both events it was immediately obvious that it was a challenge to speak across interests, but it was a greater challenge to speak across paradigms.

In The Structure of the Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn he notes that paradigms operate as constraining psychological mechanisms that entangle thoughts and at times can strain creativity…. In this day and age it seems that we are trapped by what we often think to be mutually exclusive paradigms: language which consists of words ideas and generalizations which often resonate as cliches. At times debate becomes a soundtrack. These conferences were a wonderful opportunity to have discussion across paradigms. Whether they achieved such a dialogue, I don’t know. Certainly there were good intentions.

But one thing becomes obvious. People need to speak across interests and across paradigms. If we can, progress will be made with heath care, energy, and anything just as important. Sometimes I think that speaking across interests is simple because they are there. They are in your face. They can be confronted, ignored, and maybe even dealt with. But paradigms…they are those subtle little beliefs, the stubborn little cliches, and the invisible nuances that create blocks that are well beneath the surface. They are the real icebergs that will tear apart any ship of change.



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