Paradigm Shift

In 1968, the Swiss held 65% of the market share and 80% of the profits for watches. Today, they have less than 10% of the market share and less than 20% of the profits. What happened?


The Swiss in 1968 were considered, and rightly so, the world’s experts on making watches. All the best watches came from Switzerland. A Swiss watch was a real status symbol in 1968, and while it still is today, it’s lost much of its hold on us.

They were so good in fact, that the Swiss felt there was really only one way to build a good watch. They had pioneered it and perfected it and knew exactly how it was to be done. So, in 1967, when an innovative watchmaker invented the Quartz movement watch (which moves without gears or springs and doesn’t have to be wound up), they were blind to its potential. Convinced that the idea was not credible because it didn’t match their idea of what a watch is, they dismissed it.

Shortly thereafter, they gave the innovative watchmaker permission to display his invention at the World Watch Conference. At that conference were representatives from Seiko and Texas Instruments, who were not locked into the old paradigm about how a watch should be made. The rest is history.

A “paradigm” is a way of seeing things. By itself, it is neither good nor bad. The Swiss had a paradigm that good watches had gears. For centuries, they were right! They studied gears and perfected gears until they did gears better than anyone else. But the same paradigm that helped them become the recognized watchmaking experts of the world locked them into an outdated mode of thinking. When opportunity presented itself, they were no longer able to see it.

I have a friend who says that an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less. While there are definitely benefits to expertise, one of its main drawbacks is that it is change-averse. Experts resists change, because change means they won’t be the experts anymore. The expert will often take a stand on old ideas and resist new ones in order to protect the kingdom he worked so hard to build. But like it or not, old kingdoms are just castles in the sand. By the time you get them finished, the tides of change come and wash them away.

If you are the recognized expert in an area, challenge yourself to spread out. Pursue knowledge in other areas. Allow yourself to consider other peoples’ points of view. Test your assumptions to make sure they are still solid. And by all means, listen closely to the innovative “watchmakers” who come to share their ideas with you.

(Info Source – Joel Barker, Futurist)



Filed under Change, comfort zone, expectations, expertise, learning, paradigm shift, selective perception

2 responses to “Paradigm Shift

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