Getting Started with PatternDynamics™ Part 1

Welcome to the first post in our blog podcast series. Start here to begin learning how to use PatternDynamics™ in your life, organisation, or community as a form of purpose-driven collaborative systems thinking that will help you learn to create systems that thrive in an increasingly complex world. In this episode you’ll learn about the context in which PatternDynamics™ was created, what it is, how it functions as a pattern language, and some of its features and benefits.

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Topics Discussed:

00:50 Welcome Message
01:38 Introduction to PatternDynamics
03:32 Step by Step framework for learning purpose-driven, collaborative systems thinking.
05:07 A social technology for improving decision making and complex problem solving.
07:27 Benefits of Learning PatternDynamics
10:42 Facilitates the application of collective intelligence.
11:10 The Challenge: Complexity


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Hi, I’m Tim Winton creator of Pattern Dynamics. – A system thinking framework designed to foster purpose driven collaboration. PatternDynamics is designed to help you learn to create systems that thrive. Behind me, are seven simple patterns that are the key to using the pattern dynamics framework effectively.

In this introductory module we’re going to learn about the PatternDynamics system, its patterns, the principles behind them, and how to start using them to make a difference in your life, your work and in your world.

Let’s go to the first slide here. So, we are starting Level One training and I’ll read the bullet points.

  •  This material provides an introduction to PatternDynamics Training.
  • It will help you begin learning  a systems thinking framework that assist with:
    • Better decision making
    • Improved complex problem solving
  • And, we get you started quickly and easily with a systems thinking tool that can make an immediate difference for the ability of system in your life, your work, and your world to thrive.

So, this introductory material, this is how we get started with PatternDynamics training and how you can use it in your life. We focus on two primary skills because decision making is the basis for complex problem solving. And as we  see, our world is getting more and more complex and the skill of good decisions that can help us be complex to challenges is now a critical one. And this is the basis of how PatternDynamics works and provides value for you, and for organizations you may be a part of and more importantly we get you started really quickly. So, right away in this module, this introduction module we’re going to introduce you to a technique —a tool that you can use based on one PatternDynamics pattern that will get you a result every time. Quick, easy, very simple and you can start getting results.

So, now I’d like to introduce you to PatternDynamics and the way to refer to it officially and what it is — PatternDynamics is a pattern language for creating systems that thrive. Before I go on, I just want to explain about pattern languages and why they’re relevant and why they’re now important. Because there’s a number of them that are starting to emerge and they’re being seen as an excellent strategy, an excellent way for us to start thinking about complexity and for communicating, more importantly, for communicating about the complex world that we live in. And a language made out of patterns that help us see more holistically, is something that has not really been a part of the western tradition of learning. This course will help us solve problems. But more and more of the systems sciences, and the practices and disciplines of ecology and the more holistic conceptions and understandings that we know, we now need in our world. One of the very, very effective ways of thinking about that and communicating is
through these things called Pattern Languages. And Christopher Alexander, an architect and Mathematician, developed an architectural pattern language. It really started of using patterns to communicate about something and how we design things or improve them. And from there, there have been pattern languages that had been developed for computer science and computer code creation or software code creation. There’s been pattern languages for education now in group work and other pattern about languages or the concept about a pattern language is starting to emerge as a powerful, new way for us to start solving our problems together collectively and creating better situations for ourselves. We should go back to the slide here, the second bullet, the first bullet point says, and now that we stall the features I’ll read the bullet points.

  • An intuitive systems language based on natural principles. – and again ,” natural principles” looking at ecologists and biological systems provides a really great foundation of understanding how systems work, they’re easy for us to see, they’re systems that many of us are used to. And therefore, it provides more intuitive basis for systems thinking because often systems thinking, complexity theory, chaos theory can be quite technical due to some of the disciplines  more academic disciplines surrounds systems thinking but PatternDynamics is very naturalistic and very intuitive and easy to use.
  • The second bullet point says: it’s a step by step framework for learning purposedriven, collaborative systems thinking. Being able to collaborate or communicate with each other about what we see going on in the system is an excellent way to get a better result because the systems are complex things and if individually we only have one or limited perspective, but if we coordinate other perspectives –  if we collaborate based on this, we get a better result. And even more important, if we have strong purpose — if we’re all aligned around achieving some  aim and that is another very, very powerful organizing dynamic that we can use. And PatternDynamics is a step by step process where you can learn to do this.
  • The third bullet point states: it’s a social technology for improving decision making and complex problem solving. So, a social technology is really just a way of doing things together that’s been qualified — where there’s a process and a method so, we call that a social technology. And one of the first applications of the PatternDynamics social technology is in decision making, your own and in groups, and solving complex problems better both of these are very important in the world that we’re living in now and as it unfolds.
  • The fourth bullet point states that a practice that forms the basis of a simple but effective operating system for individuals, groups, organizations and businesses.So, once you’ve learned PatternDynamics, you can start applying it as a, what we call an operating system. A way, again, a method that is really reliable, that’s easily learned, that you can apply in any situation to help at those better decisions to solve your challenges better and to make your organizations better. In fact, in our words, to help them thrive, become healthy more vigorous and for them to flourish and become great environments to be in.
  • The last point is PatternDynamics is a method for shifting organizations from a mechanistic operating structure to a living systems operating model. And this is a really important frame or a way that we could start thinking about the changes that we need to make organizationally and individually. And in society at large, as our world become more complex and the challenges around that greater complexity become a more and more over and we are more motivated to change them. So, you know the old approach was very hierarchal demanding control type of organizational style based on the machine, a model of the machine — a mechanistic model. And now we are shifting, and this is a broad trend that’s helping us with complexity to move to what’s called the living systems model.

Along the way we will get to ecologists and biological systems and the way they self organize and they able to be and adapt to extremely complex challenges, extraordinary complex systems and why is that we don’t quite understand in full, or what we’re beginning to understand but we do not yet fully apply in our own organizations and in our own society but we’re beginning to and PatternDynamics is a part of that project of a great shift and transition to a living systems world.

Now we move on to the Benefits of learning PatternDynamics: Well, as we stated,

  • It helps you create systems that thrive. That’s our over-arching goal. Systems that have what we call generated health where there are great places to be, everything works well, there’s a robust health, a resilient and they can meet challenges and adapt, grow and evolve. That’s what we call Five Ability and that’s our central commitment.
  • And another benefit is it improves understanding of organizational, social and business systems. Systems literacy or sometimes call pattern recognition — being able to understand how the whole systems work, you know, not just having expertise on the part but understanding how all those parts relate and how those parts form dynamics systems that it can achieve some goals in a healthy way.
  • And, it facilitates organizational change at the systems level. So, if you want to make change, and you want to be at the systems level, and you don’t want to be frustrated because you change the part but because the greater system has an impact on that part the change gets unraveled. If you want to make change at a systems level, the pattern dynamics is very helpful.
  • And, it makes it easier to have difficult conversations. It does that because we can start talking about the systems dynamics. And most of the time, people have genuine perspectives they like to contribute. Now, sometimes we can interpret those as things that are negativities, we don’t agree with them, we can get into conflict with them, when in fact we can use the systems thinking mentality we can see what part of the system or what perspective is being brought on the system and we can coordinate those because ultimately people’s perspectives are often about one dynamic in a system and another person’s will be about another dynamic or another pattern and they’re complementary but we’re just looking at other, you know different parts of the elephant in that  parable where the blind men are feeling different parts of the elephant and arguing about who’s right about the part of their feeling. Where In fact, if they can coordinate those perspectives they would have better opportunity to understand the whole elephant. So, in PatternDynamics we are trying to understand the whole element and help you do that. And sometimes those difficult conversations can be very generative if we can get over the conflict and start to figure out how to coordinate the perspectives for the greater whole.
  • The PatternDynamics shifts power and politics to a liberating new level. It does that through how we have the conversations because political conversations can be liberated from conflict to generatively through being able to understand what perspectives we are each bringing to try and create a healthy system.
  • It improves decision making and complex problem solving, is a social process and it is through the social process the communication that we get better decision making and better problem solving because we’re getting more perspectives on board and we know how to coordinate those perspectives to get us a better idea about the whole system.
  • And that’s the kind of collective intelligence — the last point on the slide, is that the PatternDynamics facilitates the application of collective intelligence. That’s how we actually get traction with it. We coordinate our perspectives through
    understanding the system better and then we can make an adjustment that gives us the outcome, that’s the application.

You know, the central challenge that we are talking about in the PatternDynamics system is designed to meet is what I call ‘complexity challenge’ or some people call it the ‘complexity crises’.

And, for over twenty years I’ve been working as a leader in sustainability initiatives of various sorts. And for a great period of time, many years in fact, I struggled because I didn’t have tools for making effective changes to complex systems. Now I didn’t realize that at the time I was just frustrated because I couldn’t make changes to, you know forestry and help that practice to be more sustainable or agriculture help that undertaking be more sustainable. These are great big complex systems and I was trying to have an effect on parts of them and it change parts for a while but then the greater system would unwind some of that change. While even within my own organizations has a complex system, I would try initiate change but I didn’t understand how to do it at a systems level and I was frustrated.

And then I discovered the power of what I call ‘collaborative systems thinking’. Now, these isn’t just instrumental systems thinking such as looking at the system and try to pull some lever and some kind of mechanism to get it to work differently. This is having collaborative conversations, using other people’s intelligence, forming better relationships around how we see our system and how we can make change. Now that starts to get traction. I didn’t know what I was doing at first or how it worked but I developed the PatternDynamics framework as a way to make it easier for other people to learn how I was thinking and for me to note down how I was actually thinking.

And now I have reliable method for working more effectively with complex challenges. The PatternDynamics framework, as I’ve learned to understand it is packed by substantial research now and that’s because collaborative types of system thinking. The research have shown that it gives us more perspectives and that’s a good way to understand systems and if we can inquire from each other as to how each of us are seeing the system we have more intelligence on board. And that really relates to this diagram on the right hand side of the slide called the ‘Complexity Crisis’ and that is researched by our good friends Lectica and supported by other research. That, as the complexity of our tasks grows; our ability to deal with them becomes less affective.  And what we mean by complexity is that we have more things in our world increasingly having more and more elements in it. There is more relationships between those elements, more communication and there’s more activity, it’s faster. And that all three of those interrelated dynamics are continuing to increase and are overwhelming us, sometimes it’s called being in over our heads. We have a very, very complex situation and as you go up in the
levels of leadership, the challenges that you face are greater relative to the people in entry level leadership roles. And I think this is displayed throughout society. Anyone, and if you’re working in sustainability, or an organizational life or you’re a change maker, you’re working in a complex space now. And that means that the gap between most people’s capability to deal with complexity and the complexity you’re faced with is high and closing that gap is a way that we can get better results, be less frustrated instead of having dysfunctional systems and organizations in our lives we can create much more functional ones, and in fact ones that can thrive, that have a kind of super health, that if we can learn to deal with complexity better. And systems thinking are a big part of that. Especially purpose driven collaborative systems thinking like PatternDynamics is advocating. We can close that complexity gap and that’s what makes it so practical. The PatternDynamics framework is a tool that people can learn and I can share, that I can introduce to people to help shrink the complexity gap for everybody. When we do that collectively, we get even better results.

And now I don’t feel so isolated, because I have a way of communicating my not-holistic perspective. Whereas before people used to give me blank looks because I didn’t explain myself very well. I now have a very consistent, step by step way I can introduce people to this way of thinking and I have a much more effective way of communicating it. I’m using words, and principles, and I have ways of structuring that and making myself really clear through learning the PatternDynamics principles.

Next: Getting Started with PatternDynamics™ Part 2