Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift: the increasing need for employee engagement

You may recall the basic image of a duck which transforms into a rabbit and vice versa. Depending on the structure of your brain, and whether you exhibit left- or right-hemisphere dominance, you will interpret this picture differently, as a duck, or a rabbit. Regardless or your predisposition, you will likely even notice a “shift” in your interpretation of the image, and depending on how effectively you have trained your brain to switch between left- and right-hemisphere processing, you may experience the shift occurring multiple times in your consideration of the image.

This picture, was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, who used it to describe the “paradigm shift”. It even appeared in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, when the gang tries to convince Robyn she will begin to see her new co-worker in a new light of romantic potential (whether the duck or the rabbit represents the potential becomes completely confused, and I cannot now recall exactly which is which). Classically, Kuhn referred to a “paradigm” as a shared entity between a group of a scientists, to the exclusion of others. The “shift” was a deviation from the assumption which underpinned this paradigm, challenging the basic understanding of a theory. It goes to the heart of what Einstein said, that it would only take one thinker to demonstrate his work wrong.

The “paradigm shift” represents a difficult but necessary lesson for managers to learn in today’s evolving workplace. With a greater reliance on technology, a more distributed workforce and less motivation by money, management must adapt by focusing more on its people. The following are three ways to effectively engage employees in the modern dynamic work environment:

Provide more autonomy

Employees demand more autonomy in the workplace: to be able to influence the processes they work with so that they can achieve the tasks they require. You may feel that this is an untenable position, that the job that you provide demands to be done in the way you have requested. But this attitude will not get you far. If you want return on investment, if you want quality of performance, you must pay attention to employee needs, as unengaged employees simply do not perform well.  Furthermore, a bottom-up approach works. If you have many engaged, intelligent, creative thinkers working for you, designing the systems you have in place for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, this is always superior to management calling all the shots. You are much less likely to get it right by yourself.

 Create a culture of trust

This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. If you give your employees trust and autonomy, they feel respected, their self-esteem increases and the general engagement and productively also improves. You can further establish this culture of trust by keeping the lines of communication open always, letting employees know they can contact you anytime with difficulties.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Finally, acknowledge the hard work of your employees. It is not enough to remunerate your employees and think this is enough thanks. As aforementioned, today’s employees are less motivated by money. Provide your employees with a public acknowledgement of their success, and encourage a culture of employees congratulating each other for their accomplishments as well.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

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