What IS a Paradigm Shift?


What IS a Paradigm Shift?

Put simply, a paradigm shift is a change in patterns – thinking, behaviors, boundaries and guidelines. However, the achievement of such shifting is very complex and involves several considerations prior to having any real success.

CoopLew endeavors to lead Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) toward two significant realizations: their current paradigm and the next paradigm for transformative diversity leadership. The approach we take is to construct state-of-the-art personal and diversity administrative experiences that identify current paradigms and dismantle them by revealing their impacts on the CDO lived experience and transforming them by advancing thoughts, behaviors, and skill-sets that empowerment and position CDOs for progressive, equitable, and executive experiences on the job.

Key terms impacting the CoopLew approach are found in several important works pertaining to general diversity innovations and survival techniques for the practitioner.  Of note are the terms paradigm and paralysis found in Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future (Barker, 1993). First published prior to the turn of the 21st century, this work has been updated and validated through several worldwide changes in the way American people live, eat, function, and do business. Through the study of this work, CoopLew has determined that not only should major diversity paradigm shifts be anticipated, they must be sparked by crafting a new lens through which CDOs see themselves, those they serve, and how they are received and supported as professional executives.

The two words, “paradigm” and “paralysis” have been firmly adopted for use in the CoopLew approach to transformative diversity leadership.  Through another work, in Words You Should Know: 1200 essential words every educated person should be able to use and define (Olsen, 1991), these words were again brought forth for defining and understanding prior to the turn of the 21st century. “A paradigm is an ideal instance or a pattern worthy of study” and paralysis is “Loss or damage of movement ability… used figuratively to refer to the inability of a person or institution to take action in a given situation” (p. 161). The definitions offered then are what CoopLew is making a reality of now.

The Universal Unabridged Dictionary by Webster further defines a paradigm as “a pattern, example or model” (p. 1298) which again helps to make clear the CoopLew approach and strengthens our commitment to identify and address current patterns of CDO administration and to project future conditions of CDOs in higher education and elsewhere.

Given the clarity of paradigm and paralysis gleaned from various sources, CoopLew asserts that the current state of CDO development is one largely pre-conceptualized by hiring institutions, i.e. paralyzed by patterns and behaviors that historically predetermine what a CDO should look like, think about, and do as a matter of conducting everyday business activity. Our approach is intended to dismantle pre-existing conceptions of work life components such as onboarding, resource allocation, infrastructural design, theory application and collaboration, and insert innovations that position the CDO for a leadership stature unparalleled in breadth and depth against previous paradigm expectations.  To be effective at constructing such ambitious realizations we fully understand that disruptive innovation must be a core value. Thus, we labor intently to create intrusive and immersive experiences for the 21st century CDO as well as to assess the workplaces, institutions and systems to be impacted by the same.

What is the Future Paradigm?

By definition of the words paradigm and paralysis in Barker’s work (pp. 32, 155), CoopLew is the “outsider” in diversity administration that seeks to harness the energy of the Millennial fresh into diversity administration and to empower the maturity of the older diversity professional desiring to transcend to higher levels of responsibility and relevance.  Our work will transcend from scenarios common within current diversity administrative paradigms to applications that establish new patterns for addressing elongated and oppressive lived experiences using cutting-edge thought leadership, untapped resources, network science, relationship design and exclusive camaraderie among our cohorts. We essentially are futurists in the broader realm of diversity administration.

Finally, CoopLew believes the next paradigm for transformative diversity leadership will be shaped by specifically focusing on CDO lived-experiences through research, early-career boot camps, skill-set symposia, institutions enabling CDO promotion, and savvy in application of national standards set by the National Association for Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education. The next paradigm will showcase a refined onboarding process for CDOs, inclusive of establishing who are assisters and resistors early on, and exclusive of preconceived expectations of assimilation and targeted race-based constituent service agendas. CDOs finding themselves working for years on the same problems (low hanging fruit) presented to them at the time they took the job will be a pattern of the past. Resources and reporting units will be flexible in their service deliveries and fully supported to impact the entire campus with requisite authority and leadership expectations. Communities will walk through doors opened by CDOs for access to all institutional resources as historically provided to others. Cabinet-level CDOs will possess ample financial, leadership, administrative and political savvy to move diversity agendas as mantles for the common good of all constituents. The flow and pipelines of diverse students, faculty, staff and administration persons will reflect world demographics, national imperatives, and local values.

The next paradigm is one that unfolds one CDO at a time but is exponentially tied to the preparation afforded to the CDO prior to and/or shortly after taking seat in office. Discovering more about the next paradigm in diversity leadership is key to redefinition of diversity work, CDO recognition, and professional prominence. The CoopLew Promise is our commitment and binding foundation of trust in helping all CDOs re-establish their presence as experts and transformative leaders who represent a new standard for 21st century excellence in diversity administration.


Barker, Joel Arthur. Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future. Harper Business, 1993. New York.

Olsen, David. The Words You Should Know: 1200 essential words every educated person should be able to use and define. Adams Media Corporation, 1991. Avon, MA.

Webster, Noah. Jean L. McKechnie, ed. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe Second Edition. Simon and Schuster, 1979. New York.