To discuss learning patterns, we must agree on the definition of a pattern.
Before this project I would have defined a pattern as:
Over time, my definition changed. Today it's:
What's the big deal about adding goals to the definition?
Goals are at the heart of patterns. When I look at a situation with a goal in mind, I start organizing the information to fit the desired outcome.
It's strange how our goals take over. Once we have a goal in mind, we tend to see everything from that perspective.
Being aware of goals is key element in pattern analysis. In fact, the pattern / goals connection turned out to be a major factor in anti-learning patterns.
The grocery store example adds a bit more complexity.
A Grocery Store
Walking through a grocery store you can find a Bakery section, a Meat section, a Frozen Food section, and a Fresh Produce section. The whole store is broken into categories, or patterns.
These grouping allow you to find a loaf of bread and can of peas quickly, almost effortlessly.
The different food sections are basic patterns at work.
In contrast, let's say the store had no categories, and the items were scattered throughout the aisles. You might never find that can of peas.
Patterns are key to efficient response. That seems pretty obvious.
The scattered grocery store model, however, is not that uncommon.
Whenever a new technology is introduced, you often get that same sense of being scattered. You don't know all the features; the unit locks up at random times; and the remote control has a better chance of turning on the coffee pot.
Once you understand the system and breakout the patterns, it becomes manageable. Until you get things organized, you will continue to search for that can of peas.
Enter Patterns, Enter Goals
We intuitively know that patterns are important. Faced with a random mix of items, we'll start creating patterns. Humans have an uncanny urge to organize. We can't help ourselves.
It doesn't take long, however, for our individually to get into the act. We all have different perspectives and goals. Not surprisingly, these can translate into conflicting organizations.
In a grocery store, for example, if we left the organization up to individual workers, we would have some unusual arrangements. Patterns would be driven by personal needs rather than customer service or profit.
Ultimately, some mix of ease of storage, customer demand, and profitability would be most efficient. It may also be important to entice shoppers to travel through the store. If milk, eggs, and bread were in the front, many items would go unnoticed. Thus, floor layout could also be a factor.
So, it's not just patterns. It's about tying the right patterns to the right goals.
When the goals of the store manager and the delivery guy conflict, typically the profit rationale will win out.
What happens when the pattern / goal connection is either not obvious, or becomes distorted?
The link between patterns and goals is not always obvious. Sure, a sharp auditor should spot the problem in a grocery operation, but in more politically mixed environments, conflicting patterns can persist.
You now have a growing sense for the tie between goals and organization. We're almost ready to connect that principle to the learning process.
To facilitate that view, you should understand how these insights surfaced. The anti-learning concepts and suggested countermeasures stem from a yearlong learning experiment described in the next section.
Don't worry; the experiment is somewhat revolutionary in its own right. It's certainly not boring.
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