Patterns in Business
A few years back I purchased the book Patterns of Home by Jacobsen, Silverstein, and Winslow. Filled with pictures of beautiful homes, the book distills ten enduring patterns of creating places that are a delight to visit and inhabit, places that are familiar even if we have never visited before, places that just feel like home. The concept of patterns is defined in the opening pages of the book:
“In its simplest form, a pattern is an idea about how something is done. At its best, a pattern can distill the wisdom of the past, reveal the potential of the future, and link with other patterns to form a language to guide a process. Patterns help us consider the essential elements as we undertake the creation of something new or the evaluation of something old. Designing with patterns does not lead to a preconceived result but to an infinite variety of solutions based on the specific conditions.”
Patterns introduced in the book include “Inhabiting the Site”,”Sheltering Roof”,”Parts in Proportion”, and “Private Edges, Common Core.” Each is named to provide a concentrated, almost code-like, description of a pattern. Through the book, each pattern and its nuances are introduced along with practical tips on how to apply it in a variety of circumstances and also some insights on how it connects with other patterns.
Patterns are everywhere—the shape and structure of shells, trees, the design of fabrics and cars, the architecture of buildings and cities, and even the structure and processes within our personal lives, families, teams, and businesses. Patterns are simple concepts that can manifest themselves in complex ways. Stephen Wolfram, in his book A New Kind of Science, describes the the remarkable simple basis for some of natures more complex visual patterns. In a section about the complexity of leaf shapes he states:
“The traditional intuition of biology would suggest that whenever one sees complexity—say in the shape of a leaf—it must have been generated for some particular purpose by some sophisticated process of natural selection. But what [is]… in fact a high degree of complexity can arise in a sense quite effortlessly just as a consequence of following certain simple rules of growth.”
Just as Jacobson, Silverstein, and Winslow took 250 design patterns from A Pattern Language and distilled them to the 10 lasting patterns that can create an almost endless range of design, I am beginning a project to capture and organize the enduring patterns in business that enable success and also the anti-patterns that often lead to business failure.
What patterns in business do you see?
- Learn more about Patterns of Home.
- To learn more about the connection between mathematics and natural patterns, check out the online version of Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science.
- See a great presentation at TED on fractal patterns in African communities.