The Power of Patterns in Innovations
At its very essence, all human thought is based on patterns. We use this innate ability of pattern recognition all the time, without even being aware of it, to identify faces, forms, voices, language, words, musical melodies, images, stories, concepts and so on.
As we grow up, get an education and gain experience in a particular line of work, the brain organizes whole bundles of information into fixed patterns known as scripts, frames or schemata, which we store in our memories for rapid access and use. It is these cognitive
maps that enable us to make sense of our world every day without too much mental effort, because they allow us to automatically recognize and even predict familiar patterns
— in objects or situations — while we concentrate most of our brain’s processing capacity on tasks that seem more important. In effect, this is how the mind saves energy.
The downside for innovation is that we rarely go back and re-examine the patterns we have already learned, understood and filed away for future use. Our minds are extremely good at recognizing and applying existing patterns, but we are nowhere near as good at critically
questioning or creatively rethinking these patterns on a continuous basis. The more fixed our patterns become, the more difficult it is for us to mentally move beyond them — to look at something conventional and re-imagine it in unconventional ways. This is why we become blind to new opportunities.
An idea is a pattern of thought elements arranged in a particular configuration. So when we come up with a new idea, what we are actually doing is generating a new pattern or combination of thoughts — one that suggests to us an original, exciting or better course of action.
To become successful as innovators, we need to be able to step back from the many existing patterns that surround us every day — in our businesses and our personal lives — and start looking at them from completely fresh perspectives.
In turn, this requires that we alter the patterns of thinking in our minds. We need to literally change the way we think about all kinds of objects and situations in order to discover opportunities for their evolution or revolution. We need to rethink or reframe these things by looking at them from new angles of view.