The Power of Pattern Disruption as a Vehicle for Change

pattern disruption change

Every day, billions of people around the world wake up to a daily routine. Take a shower. Get dressed. Grab their favorite double tall latte from Starbucks on their way to work.

Humans are creatures of habit. Some more than others, of course. And while some patterns have positive impact on our lives, like scheduled sleeping times for children and adults, production of manufactured goods and weekly schedules, we also know that NOT following patterned behavior can be just as important.

When our children were very young, for example, we learned the importance of disrupting patterns related to their activities and learning in order to more effectively develop their cognitive skills. Other recent and compelling examples of pattern disruption relate to security: not following routines or using identical passwords.

In the professional world, pattern disruption is an effective tool for problem solving, results generation, and team engagement. It is widely accepted that our best growth and development comes from when we break past our “norms” and get ourselves into challenges, tasks, or jobs that stretch us outside of our comfort zone.

Pattern Disruption at Work

pattern disruption changeIf we individually or collectively (as a team) keep addressing a challenge in the same manner, we will get a similar result. It’s only when we break past those former ways of thinking, when we bring new perspectives and highly disruptive actions, that we are able to solve, create, and delight. As Dan Pink points out in his book A Whole New Mind, the most successful professionals in the coming century will be those who don’t fall prey to work that can be automated (read: highly patterned activities), and those who are able to disrupt typical patterns by engaging new perspectives and seemingly unheard of solutions.

gothamCulture uses pattern disruption regularly in our facilitated sessions, to generate discussion, create an environment of possibility, break past old ways of thinking, and engage our participants in completely new ways.

The first step is to identify what patterns currently exist. We call this pattern recognition.

Recognizing Our Invisible Nametags

The truth is, some people are more skilled at recognizing patterns than others. And more often than not, the biggest challenge for professionals we work with is recognizing those patterns in themselves. A senior leader who always presses a particular point of view, a team leader who routinely favors a team member, and so on.

My personal Jedi Master, Improv Guru Shawn Westfall, writes about this more, explaining how we all wear “Invisible Name Tags”. Examples might be: Guy Who Always Thinks His Ideas Are Brilliant, Woman Who Is Always Supportive of Her Teammates, or Leader Who Never Sticks to an Agenda. Once we identify pattern, we can go about disrupting it.

This whole idea of pattern disruption supports gothamCulture’s key support areas of culture, leadership and strategy. One of the most challenging elements of culture refinement relates to getting teams and individuals past their collective norms of behavior. Things are often done a certain way because they’ve always been done that way. Disrupting those patterns of behavior helps organizational leaders we work with change the perspective of their personnel and get them to “try on” a new way of thinking or acting.

Leadership is another application for disrupting patterns. Leaders are continually forced to maintain or improve results with new teams, new rules of engagement, and new priorities. Through leadership training or coaching, these critical individuals are provided the necessary tools to adapt in the frighteningly dynamic world of business. And as an extension, the changing external factors of business consistently put pressure on our business strategy to be consistent, yet flexible. Developing the optimal strategic plan involves forecasting for a world of constant change. And that constant change is best emulated—during plan development—by disrupting the patterned thinking of the leaders in an organization.

What Worked Before Won’t Likely Work Again

There are many opportunities for professionals to break patterns, learn new ways of doing things, and generate exceptional outcomes. These patterns may show up in our personal lives, how we work with others, or tactically as we go about the business of supporting organizations with their challenges.

Recognizing those patterns, disrupting them, and then taking the next steps toward action helps build the optimal culture for your organization, support your leaders as they face unforeseen challenges, and ensure your strategy for the future is resilient enough to weather the storm.

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Cary Paul

Director at gothamCulture
Cary Paul has more than eighteen years of experience in facilitation, training, and change management.
Cary is known for his ability to engage participants and achieve results through an innovative, experiential facilitation style. He helps organizations re-imagine their approach to ongoing business issues through the design and facilitation of engaging elements. These include music, video, improv comedy, organizational storyboarding, community involvement, world change, and other right-brain solutions.