Saturday, October 20, 2012

31 Days W.I.C.: Day 13- The Rhythm is Gonna Get You!

"..communities of practice are living design concentrates on energizing uses design as a catalyst for community growth and development.."
Cultivating Communities of Practice (Wenger, McDermott& Snyder)

An hour ago, everyone was about to be out the door. (And I was to be writing by myself. With hot coffee. Which is now cold.) Off on  a little trip to Barnes & Noble, plus a snack, and then meet back up for a volleyball game. The pattern was normal, the anticipation for the outing crackled in the air, ... until it was broken. The volleyball player's knee pads were missing. A frantic forty-five minute search and knee pads.  

But the rhythm wasn't broken in that step. It was broken several days before that, when the knee pads weren't put where they should have been. Not participating in that rhythm caused a ripple effect that impacted the rhythm for the rest of the week. We can all relate to this, right? That bad day started with waking up late, the flat tire, the missed meeting,  whatever... by the end, the one action in the beginning had capsized the day. 

Dr. Leslie Patterson and Dr. Glenda Eoyang of Human Systems Dynamics explain this change in patterns, and how it affects the whole, through the example of a fractal. A kind of repetitive cosmic Spin Art, Fractals are a reiteration of the larger pattern within the whole. In that, if you kept zooming into the pattern, you would see that there are repeated mini-patterns of the large pattern. So, if you add even one minute change, you change not only the point at which the change was added, but you re-design the whole.

Fractal, courtesy of

Video: Fractal Zoom Mandelbrot Corner (YouTube)

This same action happens in communities. One small decision not to participate, one negative comment, one new, hard-to-work-with-issue ... and suddenly there is a new design.

We have seen this philosophy in the application of a bad day.
But the good news is, it works both ways. In the case of the volleyball kneepads, there is now an official bin by the door for this equipment. This one change, combined with practicing the small change of putting the kneepads there, will change the pattern of that interaction. The same small-change philosophy works in writing communities as well. Tiny tweaks to schedules, people, places, times to write, equipment, resolutions, etc. can revolutionize the process, the practice, and the product. Read one new book. Apply one idea. Write in a new place, at new time, on new topic, with a new person. See what happens.

You can make tiny, incremental changes for the good and end up with a dazzling, different design.

Make a list of changes that you'd like to see.
Break that list into tiny changes.
Make one change.... and sit back and watch!

What Fractals will you set spinning today?


Leslie Patterson said...

righto karise! !! love to see those true and useful patterns ripple through the system!

Karise said...

Thanks, Dr. P! This is my favorite explanation of change of all time... I'm such a believer in the tiny change being the big ripple!