The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Pattern Recognition

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There are many ways to find your strengths. One approach is to clarify the specific activities where you see patterns.

Pattern recognition is one of the keys to peak performance. People who see patterns are able to get a strategic view of events and make better quality decisions.

They also develop what is called personal radar. They seem to know what will happen before it happens. Let’s explore how you can capitalise on this gift.

Clarifying where
you see patterns

Where do you have this ability? You may get a quick impression of the patterns and then test your hypothesis. Here are some of the answers given by other people.

I can see patterns when I am:

Counselling troubled people … Watching the interaction between pets and their owners … Looking at a balance sheet … Coaching soccer teams … Redesigning a house … Helping companies succeed … Doing a join up with horses … Solving a specific kind of maths problem.

There are different names for this quality. It is sometimes called having a feeling for an activity or having strategic intuition. One retailer explained where he had this ability.

“Put me in any shop anywhere and I will boost sales. Retail is in my blood. I can immediately see how to display the products and lay out the store to improve profits.

“I had difficulty at school, but my parents saw I was good at selling. So they encouraged me to get a Saturday job.

“Now I am often used as a consultant to retailers who are doing pilot projects. Today there is lots of scientific analysis and TV surveillance regarding how people buy. In some cases, however, you just need to have a nose for business

“It sounds odd, but sometimes I can literally smell how to improve sales. Testing the ideas, we find many work in reality.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activity where you see patterns.

Describe some specific examples of when you have seen patterns in this activity.

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Clarifying what you
do
to see patterns

How can you explain what you seem to do intuitively? Peak performers often do certain things when entering the situation where they perform brilliantly.

They feel alive and alert. They use their antennae to scan the situation quickly and often do the following things.

They clarify what is actually happening and the real results to achieve – the picture of success.

They clarify the successful and unsuccessful patterns – the specific things that are working and the things that aren’t.

They clarify the specific things that can be done to build on the successful patterns – plus add any other skills – and do what is necessary to achieve the picture of success.

Gary Klein has written several books on this topic. These include Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions and The Power of Intuition.

The-Power-of-Intuition-Gary-Klein

Bill Breen wrote an excellent article on Gary’s work in The Fast Company magazine. Speaking with Bill, Gary explains:

I noticed that when the most experienced commanders confronted a fire, the biggest question they had to deal with wasn’t ‘What do I do?’ It was ‘What’s going on?’

That’s what their experience was buying them – the ability to size up a situation and to recognize the best course of action.

They reach into their experience – going through it on ‘hyperdrive’ – to scan previous scenarios and see what lessons might apply to the present situation.

They are, at the same time, fully present: they look for patterns and clues to piece together what is happening.

They choose what they believe would be the best course of action and play scenarios about how this might work in practice.

Describing how Gary talks about expert firefighters, Bill’s article outlines what such people do next.

Once they make a decision, they evaluate it by rapidly running a mental simulation. They imagine how a course of action may unfold and how it may ultimately play out.

The process is akin to building a sequence of snapshots, says Klein, and then observing what occurs.

If everything works out okay, the commanders stick with their choice. But if they discover unintended consequences that could get them into trouble, they discard that solution and look for another one.

They rapidly evaluate each choice on its own merits, even if they cycle through several possibilities. They don’t need the best solution. They just need the one that works.

Experienced decision makers see a different world than novices do, concludes Klein. And what they see tells them what they should do. Ultimately, intuition is all about perception.

Different people have different approaches to seeing patterns. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme.

Describe the specific activity where you see patterns.

Describe the specific things you do – including the things you look for – to see patterns in this activity.

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Clarifying how you can
build on where you see patterns

Seeing patterns enables you to get to the heart of the matter and predict what will happen. This increases your chances of success.

Wayne Gretzky, the ice hockey player, is often quoted in this regard. Asked why he was able to score so many goals, Wayne explained that:

“I skate to the part of the rink where the puck will appear.”

Looking at your own life and work, what are the specific activities where you are able to see patterns? How can you put yourself in these situations more often? What will be the benefits, both for you and other people?

Looking at my own life, I was fortunate to be able to make such a decision in my early 50s. At the time I was mentoring and running super teams courses for many companies. My best work, however, had always been helping pioneers to be effective.

Working with pioneers in different fields – such as therapy, education, sport and business – had highlighted certain patterns that worked. So this encouraged me to focus on how I could work with more pioneers in the future.

You will, of course, have your own skill. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activity where you see patterns.

Describe the specific things you can do to build on this ability to see patterns in this activity.

Describe the specific benefits – both for you and for other people – of building on this ability.

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