Learning to play the scene you’re in: exclusive highlights from week one of Paradigm Shift

May 14, 2020 James Hayward

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. We all began the year on one track and we’ll end it on another. 

Yet while our lives are on hold, the future is racing toward us. And though we can’t decide when a revolution happens, we can decide how we shape what comes out of it. 

With that in mind we kicked off our new virtual summit, Paradigm Shift, by putting aside the narratives of fear and adversity to focus instead on the opportunities that lay in front of us to make meaningful change and build a better world. 

What’s in a name? 

Paradigm Shift isn’t just the name of our virtual event, it’s something we’re all experiencing right now, says Christian Lanng, CEO & Co-founder at Tradeshift. 

The term is summarized by the philosopher, Thomas Kuhn, who says that: paradigm shifts arise when the dominant paradigm under which normal science operates is rendered incompatible with new phenomena, facilitating the adoption of a new theory or paradigm. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to shift our mindsets,” says Lanng. “And it’s leading to more change occurring in just a few months than we’ve seen over the past decade. Just look at how we’re all now working from home and collaborating digitally using tools like Zoom.”

Jai from The Sketch Effect will be sketching out our sessions each week and combining them to create a 'final' version at the end of the Paradigm Shift program.

Unraveling the sweater

These changes might just be the tip of the iceberg. In fact, Lanng hopes that they are. “When we’re forced to change one belief, it liberates us to question and challenge all other beliefs,” says Lanng. 

Lanng explains we’re seeing this across multiple vectors. For instance, companies are quickly discovering that they can enable their people to work from home. “The shift towards remote work won’t be undone, companies like Twitter are setting the standard and others will follow,” says Lanng. “Work in the future will be office optional.” 

And this shift will cause ripple effects and consequences far beyond simply where we do our jobs. 

“If we don’t need to go into the office, will we still want to live in cramped city homes,” questions Lanng “Why don’t we move to the suburbs and have big houses with gardens? If we do, what will this mean for the auto industry, given many of us own cars only to commute? And how will this broader change impact the environment?”

Just a single change that’s forced upon us has the potential to reshape our whole world. “It’s like when you pull that first thread on a sweater. If you keep pulling eventually the whole sweater unravels, giving you the chance to create something entirely new.”

Working without a script

Striving for change and building something new is hard at the best of times, let alone in the midst of our generation’s greatest crisis. 

As our second keynote speaker, Kelly Leonard, Executive Director at the world famous The Second City theatre explains: “In times of crisis our minds instinctively revert to fight-or-flight mode. This reduces our ability to retain information, make decisions with clarity and be creative.”

But if we can flip our mindsets to focus on positives rather than be enveloped by fear, there is an amazing opportunity for magic to happen in times of crisis. 

“Nothing truly innovative has ever come out of the ordinary,” says Leonard. “And as we’re faced with the most unique circumstances of our generation, we’re all learning how to work without a script.”

The innovative art of ‘yes, and’

So how do we focus our minds on opportunity over fear? “You learn how to improv,” says Leonard. “Improv is yoga for social skills. It’s loud and noisy group mindfulness. It’s a practice of being unpracticed. It’s literally learning how to work without a script.”

And when you improv you’re not just agility reacting to changing circumstances around you, you’re also innovating. The two practices are one and the same. 

At the core of improv and innovation is the concept of “yes, and,” says Leonard. 

“When a group of people come together to make something, be it comedy, or a new process at work, they get nowhere by saying no. They don’t even get far saying yes. Instead, they must say ‘yes, and’ because the best innovation happens when you confirm, attribute, explore and higheten ideas with others.” 

Play the scene you’re in

The world has turned upside down and many of us are desperate for it to go back to how it was before. But it’s likely there is no going back. The thread on the sweater has been pulled and because of this we’re all having to improvise. 

So to focus on the positives, and maximize the opportunities to build a better world in the wake of this crisis it’s key to focus on what we can control and learn to play the scene we’re in. 

“It’s easy to catastrophize the future or ruminate the past—but that only achieves negative outcomes,” he says. “So if we’re to get through the crisis and build a better world coming out of it we must stay fiercely in the moment. That way we can improvise and overcome.”

Join us on May 20 for part two of Paradigm Shift, ‘The Debate’, where we’ll be discussing the future of work, trade, and sustainability in more detail. 

To watch this session in full and RSVP for the rest of the program visit the Paradigm Shift event page.

About the Author

James Hayward

James is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Tradeshift, focused on crafting compelling stories that provide supply chain professionals with unique insights and actionable advice on how to take their organization to the next level. A journalist by trade, James was previously the Global Editor at Treasury Today magazine.

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