Watch for Patterns

Patterns

A pattern is a set of recurring elements that are repeating in a predictable manner. Mathematics is often called the science of patterns as the next number in a set can be predicted by looking for the pattern (or rules) between the previous numbers in a set.

For example, 1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 8 is the given set. The next number is 13 because each number is the sum of the previous 2.

Other patterns extent the same shape or series of shapes indefinitely, for example a wallpaper pattern or tiles in the kitchen. More complex patterns allow the same shape appear at different scales, for example fractals. And on a more simpler level we can use symmetry (mirroring, reflection, transformation) to create a pattern. Nature (trees, ferns, gras, …) provides the best examples for it.

Patterns are now used everywhere, architecture can hardly exist without patterns, the computer industry is using patterns from the development process (design patterns) to the interface design (most application menus are designed in the same way e.g file – open, ..).

Watch for Patterns

When you have a challenge in front of you, watch for patterns.

  • Is there something familiar?
  • Can the challenge be reduced to a known problem?
  • is past experience applicable?
  • take a bird’s view perspective – how does it look from a distance?
  • break it down into solvable pieces – sometimes too many details obscure what’s otherwise easy to see.
  • is there a cause and effect relationship?
  • game theory approach: identify all possibilities and play them out
  • experimenting: change something so it becomes a known pattern


If that doesn’t lead to a starting point for a solution, analyse the problem type

  • a decision has to be made
  • a system of input and output dependencies
  • an emotional problem
  • a multitude of alternative solutions is possible
  • hypothesis development (only a very limited number of options can be correct)
  • concepting (what’s the principal? Can you draw it?)
  • structure (can you put it into a structure – visual usually works best)
  • time order (sometimes not cause and effect are important but events as they happened in time)

All of these can be seen as patterns. Patterns can be repeated, transformed, extended, and scaled up or down. Finding the right pattern can help you solving the problem at hand.

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