Repetitions in Time


‘Rhythm’ signifies the waves and cycles of a system.

All natural systems have regular repetitions and cycles that order events over time. The most important ecological cycle is the annual changing of the seasons caused by the tilt in the earth’s axis relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun. The moon causes ocean tides to ebb and flow with a complex monthly rhythm. This rhythm is in turn overlaid with the pulse of waves caused by the wind. Both the seasons and the tides coordinate biological activities, fertility cycles, resource pulses, and a host of other natural rhythms. What role do rhythms play within a system? Think about how having holidays at irregular and random times from year to year would affect the organization of your workplace. What would happen if there was never any variation to the routine? Does your household function better when your family’s   weekly routine is regular and uninterrupted? How could you balance an existing Rhythm or integrate a new one into a system in your life to improve how it is organized? How do rhythms serve to coordinate systems?


Significance:The Rhythm Pattern represents the repetitions, swings, pulses, synchronizations and other regularities of processes that characterize a system’s unfolding in time.

Role:The role of Rhythm is to coordinate elements and events in time.

Effect: Rhythm demonstrates the effectiveness of regular patterns in time that assist elements of a system to engage in coordinated processes.

Balance:Rhythms must be balanced so that, on the one hand, their regularity does not become fixed, which may cause problems if conditions require change; or, on the other hand, change too often or too quickly, which can pose unnecessary or costly adaptive challenges for the rest of the system.


The arrows represent regular rhythmic processes through time. The two inner shapes denote ‘parts’ that are encompassed by the larger oval into a ‘whole’ system.This basic part/whole configuration indicates the role of Rhythm as an Aspect of Source.


The temporal regularities of form.


The principle of good timing:

The enduring health and evolution of any system depends on the appropriate balance and integration of:

  • the coordinating power of temporal regularities with the requirement for adapting Rhythms as conditions change, for a given context.

Aspect: (see the Holarchy Chart)

Rhythm is one of 7 primary Aspects of Source, the most foundational Pattern in the PatternDynamics™ framework.


Nature: Organisms, Ecosystems, and Biosphere

Organism:All life forms have rhythms of activity that vary in order to support the health of that organism. Respiration in animals is a good example of a Rhythm that serves to coordinate the activity of the entire organism in order to keep it healthy. If the Rhythm of respiration is too slow the animal will not have enough oxygen to drive metabolic processes, but if it is too fast it may cause hyperventilation – the loss of too much carbon dioxide from the blood and a resultant loss of blood pressure.

Inquiry: What would happen to an organism that was being pursued by a predator if it did not increase its rate of respiration as it increased its physical activity to escape?

Ecosystem: Humans have intervened in natural forest fire cycles by introducing smaller, but more frequent fires. This keeps the fuel load from building up to the point where there are large, but infrequent, hot fires that may destroy property. Changing the Rhythm of fire frequency has other wider effects on the ecosystem, including changing species composition of both plants and animals, altering soil conditions and changing predator/prey relationships.

Inquiry: If fire Rhythms are changed from erratic natural fire frequencies and sizes to more regular and smaller burns managed by humans, could this change the amount of total soil carbon?

Culture: Individuals, Organisations, and Socio/Economic Systems

Organizations: Businesses have financial reporting cycles that influence rhythms within the business like capital expenditures, investment strategies, and wage level adjustments. In most cases annual reporting is sufficient, but if a business is undergoing a period of rapid growth or change it may be necessary to do more frequent financial analysis in order to keep the business healthy.

Inquiry: What effects might it have on a business if business conditions remain the same, but it diminishes the regularity of its financial reporting?

Socio-Economic Systems: All scales of financial economies throughout history have displayed extremities and irregularities in their levels of activity that have posed challenges for the sustainability of those economies. This is referred to as a ‘boom and bust‘ dynamic. Governments and financial institutions regularly intervene to try and moderate extreme swings in financial activities and to introduce more reliability into the rhythms of financial markets.

Inquiry: Is it possible to mitigate the extremities of the boom and bust cycle in financial economies thought adjusting fiscal and monetary policy?