Problems and Solutions in Pattern

True problem solving is not about finding a quick fix. It’s about having the patience to, as author Wendell Berry says, pattern solve. Pattern solving is the ability, foresight and courage to look up and down the chain of action and see what problems may be created by your proposed solutions.

Pattern solving is like fighting fire with fire – learning the pattern of the problem and outsmarting it at its own game. A large problem weaves its way, like a disease, through an unforeseen number of scenarios and circumstances in a chain reaction. A pattern solution works through a kind of ‘good infection’ backwards against this chain reaction – not only to solve the problem, but to make the system healthier. Problems and Solutions working in pattern are an acknowledgement of the connectivity of our systems, workplaces, and world. In the same way that a sick liver makes a person sick – or a strong heart gives them energy – problems solved through pattern solutions restore and regenerate the system.

When a problem arises in your work (which it will, and I’m sure already has!), take the time needed to solve everything the problem touches, not just the problem itself. Get to know the problem like a friend, and it will teach you how to calculate a deep and wide solution. Ignore quick fixes!

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