Transform your Career by shifting: Shift 1 From Prediction to Pattern Making

Shiftwork is the work we all have to do to manage, survive and thrive in the face of a world where Shift Happens.

I’ve identified 11 shifts that we have to make (see here) and below I give a few tips about how to achieve the first one.

Shift 1: From Prediction To Prediction And Pattern Making

The world is changing to quickly and it is too interconnected and complex to make accurate predictions.  For instance

  • Most economic models are hopelessly inaccurate.
  • Most commentators didn’t pick the global financial crisis or credit crunch – some of the most respected commentators were predicting shares to go up 8% in the year they crashed.
  • Weather forecasts are rarely good for more than a few days (and even then they often get it wrong for exactly where you are living).
  • 80%-100% of people report chance events impacting their careers. Take my survey on the homepage of this blog to add your say and see current results (I’ve done more “scientific” research on this and published it if you want more rigor!)

Instead of trying to zoom in and focus on one or two things in our life and predicting what will happen (this is essentially what goal setting tries to achieve), try instead taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. Do this by:

  • deliberately looking for patterns in your life
  • in your surroundings
  • in new experiences
  • Look for things that repeat or are self-similar – like habits, routines, recurring themes
  • be patient and let things emerge over time – take a wait and see approach
  • look for how things fit together
  • walk around your ideas or life and see it from a different perspective
  • change the metaphor you are using to consider your life, career or other problems
  • use as many different ways of understanding what you are experiencing

Some ways of seeing patterns include:

  • patterns of thoughts
  • patterns of emotions
  • patterns of situations or context
  • patterns of reactions
  • patterns of other people’s views and opinions
  • cyclical or seasonal patterns
  • looking for similarities
  • looking for symmetries
  • looking for symmetries of scale – for instance same thing at every level of behaviour – individual, group, community
  • look for patterns, themes and plots in stories
  • look for irregular but sort of like old patterns

And remember that the patterns will never be complete, often are in the process of emerging and they will change themselves over time. Within the Chaos Theory of Careers, I argue that many patterns are fractals – patterns that repeat in self-similar but not identical manner and that are subject to unpredictable change.


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