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Circular Wonderings is an exploration of the role of digital, software and technology in the Circular Economy. Exploration is the key word here. I write regularly, reflecting on my current thoughts and research. Expect typos, incomplete thoughts, varied rambling topics and (hopefully) a journey towards clearer understanding and insight. Subscribe here to join my journey.

Paradigm Shift (part 2)

This post is part of a short series attempting to understand Carol Sanford's [1] "Four Paradigm Framework", with the aim of applying it to the role of technology in the Circular Economy.

Carol has identified four paradigms [2] in the framework. (Caveat: I am using my own words and my very incomplete understanding here. So, blame me for inaccuracies or inconsistencies first.)

Value return 

This is the lowest paradigm. This paradigm is centred on the self. She does note that the 'self' here might literally be myself, but may extend to a group such as family, business or even nation. But the focus is on how getting direct value.

There is a range within this paradigm. At one end, the most important thing is extracting value, regardless of the consequences. At the other end, we are coming from a need for safety. A simple example is that we need to save for our long term security. So we invest in pensions and other forms of financial security.

Arrest Disorder 

The next step in her framework is the need to do less harm. Here the paradigm has shifted and we have identified that a focus solely on extracting value will cause damage.

Thus we start to focus on problems and the vital need to reduce the negative impact they cause.

Do Good 

Carol observes that Arrest Disorder, usually very quickly, shifts to a paradigm where doing less harm is not enough. At this stage the need to reduce the negative does not go away, but our focus moves to the need to do better.

Crucially, at this stage of the framework the definition of what is 'good' comes from us. So, we risk forcing solutions on situations where they are unwanted or unsuitable. There are plenty of great examples of what seems like the most obviously 'good' actions result in outcomes exactly the opposite of what we intended.

Regenerate life 

This leads us to the highest level of her framework. In this paradigm the focus is on enabling potential. The definition of what is 'good' is theirs and taken in a wider context. So, this includes the potential of those individuals around us, our communities and businesses and so on. And also the wider planetary ecosystem that we are part of.



The really interesting conclusion of this framework, for me, is not that each level is 'higher'. Or that higher levels exist on their own. Rather by shifting our paradigm through this framework we change how we approach the lower paradigms.

I'll explore that in the next post.