The Patterns

we have discovered for designing the future

How the Patterns Work

How the Patterns Work

These are drafts of The Patterns for Designing the Future.   They all originated from successful seasoned practitioners.   But they are open to evolution.   Next step  for The Guide Network:   Get closer and closer to experience-based reality by adding, subtracting, dividing, honing, polishing and being inspired by these pioneering efforts.

We've annotated in yellow this Pattern, “501. A Small Group of Like-Minded People ***”, to demonstrate how, for convenience and clarity, each pattern has the same format.


(I.  Headline.   For example:) 

501.  A Small Group of Like-Minded People***

(The three-digit number:)

(First digit indicates scale. 900 series patterns are of the highest  global cosmic scope. 100 series patterns are the most nitty-gritty down in the weeds. Hence, the “5” in this example indicates a belief that this pattern is of medium scale.   Scale absolutely is not the same as importance. It’s just a convenient way to group patterns requiring similar lens length.)

(The next two digits initially are holding items for possible revision. As more order is discovered within that series, the patterns can be renumbered to highlight their relationship with each other. Initially, however, those digits are conveniences:  the first pattern discovered in the 500 series becomes 501. The next one – “On Society’s Margins,” becomes 502. And so forth.)

(Asterisks after headline indicate confidence level:)

(*** = high – i.e., shows up repeatedly.  ** = medium.  * = provisional – i.e., intriguing or controversial hypothesis that needs further testing.)

(II.  Photo:)

(Each headline is followed by a photo that illustrates the pattern being described.   Plus a brief cutline explaining it.   Plus a footnote with credit source information.) 

 Stewart Brand, 32, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, works on the last issue of the Whole Earth Catalog at Menlo Park, Calif., May 28, 1971.1


(III.   Statement of the Pattern in bold-face. Followed by brief explanation.  For example:)

New designs for the future always gestate as conspiracies – not committees. They have to. They aim to upset the status quo. Hence, they start small and furtive. Even when – especially when – they are embedded in large organizations.

The optimum breeding ground for designing the future is a small group of folk who are like-minded about the challenge, but who come from differing points of view. Multiple perspectives and talents are required to constantly reality-check each other. That bold but loving function is especially important if one of the members of the small group is a notorious visionary. No isolated human ever thrives.


(IV.  Followed by links to other patterns.) 



(V.   Insert three diamonds before main discussion of the pattern.)


 (VI.  Main discussion of the Pattern.)


The most functional and self-regulating insurgency  groups, history shows, have between three and eight core members. Fewer risks tunnel vision. As well as an absence of key skills. More, and the group risks splitting into factions, endangering cohesion.  

Research shows this to be a deep pattern rooted in the human brain’s trust and cognition capabilities. Since at least Roman times, across cultures and technologies, the smallest and most cohesive military unit has been a squad, typically made up of four to 10 soldiers.2 Most Americans know just 10 to 25 people well enough to say they trust them.3 Most religious congregations in the U.S. average 75 worshipers on any given Sunday.4 “Dunbar's number”5 – 150 – is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.  This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size.  Dunbar explained it informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar".  Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. 

History shows that with a good story, twelve apostles, four evangelists and a St. Paul, you can change the world.   You really can. 



(VII.   Insert three diamonds after main discussion of the Pattern.)


 (VIII.  The Path of Action.   Therefore you must do *this*.   Expressed in bold face.)

 When embarking on designing a novel future, make sure your initial core human element – the passionate who are willing to devote considerable time – is of the self-regulating single-digit size.   If you need, want, or have more devotees, try creating a second, less intensive level of attachment to the project.   Calling it a Brain Trust is an approach that has had success.


(IX.   Editors must be alert for clusters of patterns that usefully can be grouped.)