You can teach an old dog new tricks.

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolution” and fathered, defined and popularized the concept of “paradigm shift.” Imagine, Kuhn argued back then, that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions,” and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” 

Think of a paradigm shift as a change from one way of thinking to another — a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis.

When was the last time you experienced this? Probably the last time you expanded your operation, or adopted a new technology, or viewed an employee with a different perspective.  

Our industry may be at the beginning of a paradigm shift with regard to immigration reform and the way individual states are taking this matter into their own hands. This surely will force you to shift your ways of hiring and managing people.

We experience change throughout our lifetime. Neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in the environment. Apparently, the brain wants to do this naturally. But we also resist someone change because we don’t see what is in it for us. Or, we resist because we say “I have always done it that way” or “my Dad did it that way.” Or, we resist because deep inside we know it will require a change in behavior.   

Along these lines, owners and managers have certain views about employees. A manager’s paradigms reflect the knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions he has about the world — for instance, hard work brings success. Human-resource paradigms are the eyeglasses through which managers see people and their ability to contribute to the business. These paradigms influence the planning, hiring, training, communication and discipline processes on the farm. 

Managers incorporate their paradigms into the business culture. Each business culture reflects its values, beliefs, jargon, norms and traditions. By changing its paradigms, the management team can change the business’ culture and the environment within which its people are functioning.

A paradigm that views employees as not caring about the business will cause management to be hesitant to ask for their opinions or delegate responsibility to them. This leads to a culture in which employees are distrusted and isolated from management. A paradigm that views workers as caring and dedicated to the business will lead to managers trusting them and asking for their input on important decisions. The result is a trusting culture and mutual respect.

Together, paradigms about people and the business’ culture determine the environment within which people do their jobs. A positive HR environment reduces risk and increases the businesses’ ability to handle the risk that does exist. 

How would you describe the paradigm or framework in which you are operating (and driven by you)? And more importantly, what shift is it worth creating in that paradigm or framework to guarantee sustainability of your business?

Jorge Estrada is an organizational development consultant and leadership coach with Leadership Coaching International Inc. He can be reached at (360) 481-0133 or