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Patterns and Precision

I have been thinking about strategy, opportunity and how the world works. Things seem busy and fast, and change is all around us. 

I also notice that sometimes people need precision or certainty to make decisions, and it seems the world is at odds with that.  Maybe it's entropy (2. Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder), and maybe it's that we exist in complex adaptive systems where the variables are changing all the time, and it’s impossible to have the certainty that makes us comfortable. 

Maybe it's both. 

Either way, we need some tools for decision-making, planning and setting direction. I have been thinking about how patterns vs precision can help us. 

What does this mean for leaders and business owners trying to make decisions and set direction? And what do I mean by patterns vs precision? 

There is a dog-walking park a 15-minute drive from my house. It’s a beautiful, huge open space with some paths for running and walking and some for cycling. There is loads of space, dogs are allowed off-lead, and most dogs are well-socialised and wonderful. 

I go there 3 - 4 times weekly and walk or run with my dog Harley (pictured above). With this context in mind, even if I go at 7:00 am every day, I wouldn’t be able to predict who I would meet, people or dogs, because a system like that is pretty complex, but I have identified specific patterns. 

For example, there are afternoon walkers and morning walkers. 

Then there are times when the park is busier and times when it is quieter. It seems like a batch of peeps arrive around 7:00ish, a batch around 7:30 and another batch around 8. 

There are everyday dog walkers, weekend dog walkers, and occasional weekday walkers. 

Some peeps come for exercise, some come to socialise, and those who come for training for their dogs but not necessarily themselves. 

Finally, there are the cyclists and the families who come to cycle or play or get some air. 

Noticing these patterns has helped me make decisions. I make decisions based on whether I am walking or running. Do I want to avoid someone or run into them so Harley can play? Am I thinking or socialising? Walking in the park is often a high return on investment. I get exercise, I do my best thinking, and Harley gets a run. To get precision in this space, I would need a crystal ball to see who was at the park and what was happening. It struck me on one of those walks that these patterns are what we need to look for when we are dealing with complexity. 

If we observed the patterns in our organisations, markets, or ecosystems, we could use those patterns to help make decisions or try to nudge the system somehow.  

What patterns do you notice in your organisation? Here are some questions to spark your thinking. 

  • How does information flow? 

  • How does value flow? 

  • In general, what do you notice? 

  • What exceptions do you notice? 

  • What surprises you? 

  • What opportunities for change do you see if you think of patterns and nudges instead of precision? 

  • Who are the early walkers?

  • The weekend walkers? 

  • The everyday walkers?

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