Writings Archives

From Industry Week,  June 15, 1987

By Perry Pascarella

Werner Erhard has developed an organization to help managers create breakthroughs in performance. Is he establishing just another fad? Or will he help create the magnitude of change that many organizations desperately need? Sample his line of thinking and see what you think.

The net looks only one foot high. The service court seems as large as an airfield – I can’t miss it. My racket swings over and “through” the ball to drive a serve that pulls my opponent wide to his forehand side and I strike again in no time to smash his return out the open back corner. A great feeling!

I try to remember the action—reconstruct, analyze, and explain it. But I know that won’t ensure I’ll repeat it. And then there are times when that opposite court looks tiny, the net looms ten feet high, and the ball is a pea traveling at Mach 1.

The court, the net, and the ball are all real. Yet the way they occur for me changes dramatically from a good day to a bad day. While reality doesn’t change, the way it occurs for me does. Could I control that shift in my experience so I could consistently play well? Could I really make that shift happen?

We try to improve our performance by analyzing and evaluating action, producing a prescription for what should be done, and then training ourselves to do a little better. But if we want a dramatic breakthrough in performance, it seems we need a totally different approach.

In his work to develop an approach to performance that will predictably produce breakthroughs, Werner Erhard says, “If you seriously examine any action, you find there are always two sides of it: the side from which you can explain it and the side from which you can produce it. After a recent two-day rise in the stock market, for example, I read an article that masterfully described that rise, analyzed it, and explained it. However, even though I now fully understand what happened, I am not going to bet my life savings on my ability to predict the next one.

“In individual and organizational performance, most of us attempt to produce action by working in the after-the-fact realm of description, analysis, explanation, and prescription. Rarely do we consider that producing an action requires a whole different way of looking at it. If you want to have a dramatic impact on performance, you need access to the source of action.”

A spectator can describe what I’m doing on the tennis court. He is living in the realm of evaluation and explanation – but I’m playing in the world of action. While there is a relationship between his description and what is occurring on the court, the two are clearly not the same.

We seldom think about this sort of distinction, but “failing to make this simple distinction can lead to being satisfied with an explanation about action and may hide from our view the source of action,” says Werner Erhard.

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Paradigm Thinking and Productivity

From the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, a publication of Xerox Corporation

PARADIGM THINKING, properly applied leads to tangible results. JMW Consultants. A New York based management consulting consulting firm, helps companies boost productivity through paradigm shifts with an approach called “Productivity Breakthrough Technology.”

Three years ago, a major computer manufacturer called in JMW to help deal with a crisis.

The manufacturer was trying to get an important product out in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing marketing window. If the team of software developers responsible for the project continued the development process at their current rate – a rate that was in line with industry standards – the product would not be ready on time. If the company hired more programmers to speed up the process, they would exceed their budget. Clearly, a breakthrough was needed.

After working with JMW, the software team began to double their previous productivity. The breakthrough enabled the company to get the product out in time – and save more than $100 million over the next three years.

JMW did not teach the team new techniques for developing software. Instead they helped them shift their paradigm. In their old paradigm, the rule was “X (the predictable) amount of work in X amount of time.” The new paradigm was stated as a possibility – “Y (the required) amount of work in X amount of time.”

“The shift was to create a future – the one they needed – as a possibility, not as a prediction,” says Werner Erhard, who founded a national affiliation of management consultants with which JMW is associated. “At that point, no one knew how to do it, but they could still create the possibility.

Because there was now a new paradigm in which to see the work, the team began seeing the job of developing software differently. They then were able to generate a commitment to that possibility.”

Erhard points out that when a breakthrough is needed, what is often called for is the development of a new paradigm.

“Changing the paradigm does not negate the need for realistic, hard-headed thinking, ” he says. “In ‘business as usual’ we get clear about the situation to determine what we can do and what we can’t.

But to produce a breakthrough, you have to stand the usual approach on its head.”

The process begins with inventing a new possibility, without regard to whether you know what to do to realize it. You then look back at the situation from the standpoint of that new possibility.

“That is what gives you the new perspective and what allows you to see the situation in a way you haven’t seen it before,” says Erhard. “That is the beginnings of generating a new paradigm.” At some point in the process, he says, it will be evident that you have come up with the best paradigm for a breakthrough in that situation.

“Productivity breakthroughs are a product of seeing something in a new way, which enables you to see new opportunities and new openings for action that you couldn’t see before,” he adds. “Breakthroughs come as a result of shifting your commitment from the predictable future to a possible future.”

est: Communication in a Context of Compassion

by Werner Erhard and Victor Gioscia, Ph.D.

Format of the est Standard Training

The est Standard Training is approximately 60 hours long and is usually presented on two successive weekends: two Saturdays and two Sundays, beginning at 9 a.m and ending after midnight, when the trainer observes that the results for that day have been reached.  “Breaks” are usually taken every four hours and there is usually one meal break during the day.  People eat breakfast before and some have a snack after the training day.  Included in the #300 tuition are pre-, mid-, and post-training seminars.  These are each about 3 1/2 hours in duration, and take place on three weekday evenings, one before, one between, and one after the training weekends.

Approximately 250 people take the training together at one time, seated in a hotel ballroom.  Chairs are arranged theater style, facing a low platform on which a chair, a lectern, and two chalkboards are placed.  Everyone wears a nametag printed in letters large enough to be read from the platform.

In est there are four principle topics addressed in the training – belief, experience, reality, and self.  Trainees have the opportunity to examine their experience of each of these topics in three ways: (1) lectures by the trainer, (2) “processes” (guided experiences, usually with eyes closed, and (3) sharing – communications from individual trainees to the trainer and/or to the class.

Trainees realize early in the training that the trainer is not actually “lecturing” i.e, presenting conceptual information – but presenting the trainees with a chance to “look and see what is so for you in your own experience” about the topics discussed.  Similarly, trainees seen realize that ” processes” are opportunities to examine the records of previous experiences in the privacy and safety of their own experience (or “space”) and that, as they wish, they may or may not share what is so for them.

The following chart presents these schematically:

Topic
Process
Sharing
Day 1
Belief
Body
Yes
Day 2
Experience
Truth
Yes
Day 3
Reality
Center
Yes
Day 4
Self
Mind
Yes

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A Crash Course in Paradigm Thinking

Can you cross all nine dots in the above drawing with only four straight line, without lifting your pencil from the paper?  Give yourself a few minutes to try to solve this puzzle before going on to read the answer.

 

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