Sailing along ‘pattern currents’ in the sea of change

Test Pattern I (Credits: Sauerlender / FlickR) - How to jump over patterns?
Test Pattern I (Credits: Sauerlaender / FlickR) – How to jump over patterns?


Change is so ubiquitous and, as Torben Rick would say, “constant change is the new normal” to such an extent that for networked individuals, change is hardly surprising though it is still discomforting.

Where, then, are the spaces to catch your breath and find some kind of ‘structure’ or insights to make sense of change? 

There is no single or simple answer to that, but the best fragments of chance for some coping ability lie in patterns. Patterns are the islands that help us navigate the sea of change without sinking in it. And patterns are everywhere:

  • Patterns from the biggest to the smallest order, mimicking fractals of complexity, from the way a family organises itself to the way a multi-country agreement is reached (or not);
  • Patterns of conversations, like the phoenixes I sometimes refer to, reveal ideas that are – perhaps also like the ‘déjà vu’ experiences in the movie The Matrix reveal something bigger (and in that case, dangerous);
  • Patterns of colour, sound, shape, intensity, rhythm, that each hold a grain of truth about the universal order around us;
  • Patterns of behaviour from another area to the one we are in – how does xyz react in this environment?
  • Patterns of events from another place, or time, to another one – how did this happen again here and now?

Companies like Google (see below), or Except have understood early on that the seed of innovation and of the next step lies at the junction of individual ideas and collective sense-making, and it appears out of patterns of conversations…

We need to become highly trained at working with patterns:

  • Spot patterns
  • Match patterns
  • Mix patterns
  • Break, dim, develop or amplify patterns of behaviour

All the patterns we see around us are ways to make better sense of the world around us, and get us ahead of the challenges coming at us. I would put my bets on pattern-breakers as the most effective decision-makers of this era.

If learning is the grammar of the social age of change, patterns might just be (part of) the alphabet we need to apply that grammar…

How to surf with patterns?

Webtreats Free Tileable Tropical Abstract Patterns Part 1-4 (Credits: WebTreats / FlickR) - Where patterns help us ride the ripples
Webtreats Free Tileable Tropical Abstract Patterns Part 1-4 (Credits: WebTreats / FlickR) – Where patterns help us ride the ripples


The art of reading and using patterns is a bit of a gift and a bit of an acquired practice. But a few things certainly help everyone get better – and apparently humans are the best pattern-recognition machines so here’s hope for everybody 🙂

The door key to patternland is diversity. A diversity of experiences and perspectives allows to look at the world in a more lateral or oblique manner, giving us a new understanding of where similiarities and differences lie.


  • Do what you can to broaden your vision and walks of life;
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes (use DeBono’s six thinking hats for this?);
  • Bring diverse, dissident or deviant voices to think along;
  • Move away from your typical position to look at an issue, look at it from above, from under, from aside, from across…
  • Use metaphors, analogies, ask yourself “what would it be if it was: an animal / a plant / a country / a dish” and those sort of questions that get you out of your thinking box;
  • Reflect regularly, note things down, and every time dive one level deeper;
  • Use different languages to approach an issue;
  • Borrow ideas and recombine them, to spot new patterns;
  • Make it a game to notice all kinds of patterns of everyday life, these superficial patterns still subtly sharpen your pattern-breaking capability;
  • And of course to notice the deeper patterns of thinking and action, as ITAD did with capacity development;
  • Put yourself in uncomfortable positions so that you have no other choice but to identify patterns;
  • Make patterns a central ‘pattern’ of your language, like the GroupWorks collective did with their card deck.
  • … add your many ways to spot patterns…
De Bono's 'six thinking hats' is one of many ways to help us see patterns
De Bono’s ‘six thinking hats’ is one of many ways to help us see patterns

Nothing is quite definite any longer, but patterns are a constant in the sea of change, they are islands – or perhaps more adequately currents – that allow us to navigate the ever fluctuating sea of change.

What are your secrets to find where these currents are?

Related blog posts:


Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

Join the Conversation


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. As far as patterns go, I love to make connections or patterns for subjects like music (note names or length of notes), binary code or any mathematical patterns with numbers, colors (specifically physics light colors for the three primary additive and subtractive primary colors), geometric shapes (space ,points, length of sides, dimensions, how things shapes connect together), mirror images of things or mirroring things or movement of patterns in time or a pattern inside of a pattern or a pattern twisted within or around itself, words or letters (but I am not good with words)….amongst other things…lately, I have playing around with pitches or music notes played for a certain length of time and how the playback speed affects the pitch and length of time.for instance, if I were to record the pitch middle C for one second and pkay this back at half of the speed (.5X), the note is an octave lower and is 2 seconds in length. Ironically, if I take pitch middle C and play this back at a speed that’s twice as fast (2x), the note is octave higher and .5 seconds. After playing around with different speeds, I noticed that the pitch of a note and the playback speed for number of octaves up or down from the original pitch has a pattern that matches binary code. 0.25X Speed (2^10-2) is two octaves lower, .5X Speed (2^-1) is one octave lower, 1X (2^0) is the original same pitch played at regular or normal speed, 2x Speed (2^1) is an octave higher. 1.5x speed I believe brought the pitch up one fifth higher,which shows that pitch and playback speed is not a linear pattern.

  2. Your artwork is quite dandy. I love fractals, holographic, iridescent, geometric type of artwork and constantly amused by figuring out connections or patterns in life in many aspects (or in connecting the aspects themselves to each other with patterns)… : ) Awesome and thanks!

  3. Hi both!

    Thank you for your comments and sorry for the late reply.
    – I am suggesting focusing on patterns, all the time, recognising the old ones (and knowing what our own patterns are) and getting agile at finding out about new patterns.
    – As for streams of knowledge, if it influenced this post it’s only very subconscious. For me SoK relates to the whole resource centre network adventure, which was not so much (explicitly at least) about this fluid pattern language and complexity-ridden perspective.
    Thanks for engaging here 😉

    – Hmmm interesting what you’re saying about much KM and learning should be about IM. I certainly think we should always include it but I reckon the main point is to have the learning conversations – the documentation of which is only leaving traces for others later, but the driver is the conversation, not the documentation.
    – Yes we are made of and surrounded by patterns, but somehow we’ve forgotten what to do about it.
    – Haven’t (yet) checked Periscope or Meerkat. Worth the trip?
    And yes, I’ll keep on the blogging pattern. In fact I’m about to start (in May) a facilitation blog, as I write quite a bit about that too and it’s not all strictly KM – even though it’s totally part and parcel of KM.
    Thank you again! I’m around in April, no trip, no event, finally a skype chat? I’ll look you up.

  4. Hi Ewen, Fun thought piece!
    Hey Bury, we had a discussion on Streams of Knowledge. My point is that knowledge never will stream and that the label / metaphor is wrong-footing us. Information does flow hence much learning and KM should be IM focused.

    On patterns. Yes, we carbon based life forms are bound to sense (and recognize) patterns. It is good to be aware of ones own patterns – alter ego’s? 🙂 – and pattern searching. Without patterns we are lost; you would not recognize your cat, spouse or own feet…. We live by self delusion; its a pattern 🙂
    Musing on the title: the sea scanned for patterns looks like a change of currents. Patterns are emergent phenomena. Spin doctoring is another.
    Your text reminds me of the children party video explaining Cynefin.
    I also noticed you made it to the to 50 KM influencers! Chapeau!
    Development has a number of nasty patterns….
    I love this pattern:
    Cheers, Jaap
    PS Please stick to the blogging pattern
    PS What do you think of Periscoe by Twitter?

  5. Hmmm this reminds me of an article in Wired Italia about communication and patterns, which I still need to share (hoping that translate does the job for those who don’t recognize italian ‘patterns’ ;-).
    Then there is the problem that I’m – unfortunately – among those that read too fast (online, but not only), so sorry for misunderstanding the above:

    – I like the pattern-breakers and consider (at least some of) my alteregos to be part of them;
    – Not sure if you tell us to concentrate on patterns (we know or recognize) or be open to other (or new emerging) patterns?
    – I smile at you suggesting ‘currents’ for ‘patterns’: indoctrinated by years at IRC, introducing streams of knowledge 😉 ?

    Cheers from Zola

%d bloggers like this: