Paradigm shift is a well understood term but it is relatively new, first appearing in 1962 in a book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn. He used it to describe a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science. Kuhn referred to the accumulation of experimental detail in support of an existing scientific concept or paradigm as “normal science” and believed that it was only when enough detail had accumulated that challenged the concept that a paradigm shift could occur.
Once the paradigm shift has occurred it is no longer possible to use the previously accepted paradigm. For example; once it was discovered that bacteria were the agents of disease it was no longer possible to accept the old concept of miasma being the cause of disease.
Kuhn didn’t believe that a paradigm shift could apply to the humanities, because it’s possible to make multiple interpretations of the same events.
Despite that distinction the term is now applied to many changes in economics, technology and business; internet, mobile technology, outsourcing to name a few.
In recent weeks it’s also been something called for in the international business world particularly in the financial sector. Going back to Kuhn’s original theory, perhaps enough detail, enough evidence, has now accumulated for a paradigm change to occur.