The Swiss were the best watchmakers in the world. They made the most intricate, accurate and beautiful timepieces. Swiss mechanical watches were of the highest quality and dominated global markets. But something happened that changed all of that. It was the quartz.
In 1967 the first quartz wristwatch was developed. Because of their tradition of excellence in watch making the Swiss did not see the importance of the paradigm shift occurring right in front of them. They were slow to embrace quartz watches. Moving into electronic watches seemed unnecessary. Outside of Switzerland it was a different story. By 1978 quartz watches overtook mechanical watches in popularity and world markets began to be dominated by the Japanese and American watch industries. As a result many once profitable and proud famous Swiss watch houses became insolvent or ceased to exist.
You might wonder who developed the first quartz watch. It was actually the Swiss! In 1967, the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel developed the world first quartz wristwatch – the famous Beta 21.
The Swiss continued on their previously successful path. They continued to improve carefully calibrated fine watches, increasing beauty and functionality to ever greater levels of precision. But the simple quartz could do it just as well and a lot cheaper.
The lesson is clear and extends to other paradigms as well
Most organizational and business leaders are not clamoring to embrace the new leadership paradigm that is likely to become the threshold competency for the knowledge based global economy. Without a strong sense of purpose, courage and a sense of justice guided by a moral compass they are not likely to balance privilege with responsibility. Unless they can accomplish that, group or organizational commitment will elude them. The absence of those important leadership qualities is impossible to hide in the face of readily available knowledge.
If the paradigm has shifted but you have not, it is unlikely that your attention will be focused in the right place. We measure a lot of things in our efforts to improve productivity and innovation, but if the human paradigm is wrong what we are measuring is unlikely to move us forward. In an effort to show progress, we continually refine (and complicate) our metrics and assessments. But the managers of metrics are not the same as the leaders of people. The self-aware leader knows that their primary job is to develop and protect. To do this effectively they must start with themselves. The performance of a company is closely tied to something we rarely measure in business or psychology, the personality and values of the person at the top. Leadership effectiveness is a function of personal mastery and personal mastery is a function of self-knowledge.