The Power of Pattern Recognition

I’m delighted to have John Spence, author of the highly recommended book, “Awesomely Simple,” back on Leadership Freak. His comments on “pattern recognition” helped me. I asked him to share his story on how he began seeing patterns.


I believe that an essential skill of a great strategic thinker, and for that matter a great leader, is… Pattern Recognition.

Early in my career I became an almost fanatical reader of business books, working through 100 – 120 every year, and soon realized that there was a massive amount of redundancy between most books on any given business topic.

But far from being frustrated by the redundancy, I instead began to see “patterns” of key ideas that all of these incredibly bright authors seemed to be focused on.

For example, a few years ago I read 21 books on “business execution” to prepare for a special client project. After more than 4,500 pages on the same topic it became exceedingly obvious that there was a pattern of just nine specific steps that every one of the authors indicated was necessary to effectively execute a business initiative. Oh, they talked about a lot of other stuff, but it was clear that every single book had in some way indicated that these nine things were critical to creating an organization that could successfully execute on their objectives.

Armed with an understanding of this power pattern, I felt comfortable that I had a good handle on the key things I needed to build into my program in order to help my client improve their execution effectiveness.

It is this same sort of pattern recognition that allows a chess Grand Master to “see down board, “ a star quarterback to “read” the defense, or an experienced surgeon to make life or death decisions in the operating room – they see the pattern. It is also what allows a great strategic leader to “see” patterns in the market place, competition, consumer behavior and within their own business systems.


Has seeing patterns helped you think and lead better?

How do you see patterns?