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?
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…
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:
- Scaling, pacing, staging and patterning… Navigating fractal change through space and time
- Flap your wings for the ‘butterfly revolution’ of learning and change
- Reinventing the wheel: it’s ok… kind of…
- Experiential learning and the power of questions in motion (Ramblings and mumblings around…
- Cycles, circles and ripples of learning