A Discussion of Clustering, Patterning, and Exploring for Emergent Ideas

In this process, there are no right or wrong “answers.” We are seeking Insights to enhance the Resilience of our Strategies. Our tabletop is covered with Observations, and we are working and playing together with the ideas we see there. When working with systemic practices, we want an open mind, an exploratory approach, and enthusiasm to “jump in” and begin to find ideas that seem to be associated. We don’t have to know exactly how they are associated yet, it is enough that they seen to go together.

We are looking for themes…..what seems to keep appearing? Move those ideas together on the table and continue to seek for other connections. Is there something that everyone is “saying” that no one actually said? As we are seeking for ideas that will enable us to build the Resilience of our Strategies, one by one, we want to keep referring back to the Strategy so that we can identify Observations that have a shared relevance to some aspect of the Strategy. Working loosely at the beginning, working in a relaxed way, the Observations become a bit like puzzle pieces that we are moving around to see what makes sense or fits together.

With many discrete ideas, clustering allows us quickly to arrange and rearrange our slips of paper in the search of meaning and deeper understanding. As we do this, patterns will emerge, but patterning in and of itself isn’t valuable. It becomes valuable when a pattern reveals meaning and opens doors to what wasn’t obvious before. Concentrations and intensity of Observations is often revealing. Mutually reinforcing Observations or interdependencies can lead to forms or relationships that offer promise of unexpected ideas that haven’t come together.

Clustering, and finding patterns is not necessarily about logic, but is more about associations. Logic is, of course, part of the process but we’re moving more in a fluid medium. For example, when we focus our eyes in the distance, the objects up close become out of focus, vague. Similarly, we can shift our perception of one or more of the Observations, and let others fade out. Or, we can focus just on the future of an Observation or set of Observations, seeking Insights into how they might unfold over time relative to the Strategy under consideration. There may be nuggets that we discover, or concentrations that are important to capture for those who won’t be reading all the Observations.

Some people find that sorting the Observations initially and closing their eyes and letting a few minutes pass, taking deep breaths and letting the Observations “speak to them” is an effective approach. Others like to take a few connected Observations and try to put into words how they fit together, either alone or with colleagues. For some, conversation can support the process of Identifying Insights through patterning and clustering, while others benefit by periods of conversation and then periods of quiet thinking and reflection.

As there are many Observations to consider, this process takes time. Rushing does not help, and, as you or your group work through the Observations, taking notes on a vertical easel or white board is important because it frees you from having to hold ideas that lead to Insights in your head as new Insights are coming forward. Post them, and let them go as you continue to explore.

When you or your group feel that you have explored all of the Observations and discovered significant, even unexpected Insights, you are ready to record those Insights in the WindTunneling program. Please note that there is a “because” reminder on the ”Submit Insights” pop-up form. Briefly stating your rationale will support others in interpreting your Insights.

There is a 50-word limit for Insights. The more clear and concise you can be, the more helpful your Insights will be for all the Participants and the Project Sponsors. Your Insights may also be reviewed by others in the organization so clarity is key.

As the Insights are anonymous, one or more of your group can enter the various Insights that have emerged from your work. To do this, go to the “Contribute” page for Identify Insights for Resilience and click the “Submit Insights” button on the right side of the page.