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Tagged Posts: Patterns

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More on Business Strategy Patterns

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Allan Kelly commented on my post from last year about the possibilities of using pattern languages to describe business strategies, to point out that he has done quite a bit of this already.

So far the only paper I’ve had a chance to read is Business Strategy Patterns for The Innovative Company, which is a set of patterns derived from “Corporate Imagination and Expeditionary Marketing” (Hamel and Prahalad, 1991). In this Allan derives:

  • Innovative Products
  • Expeditionary Marketing
  • Seperate Imaginative Teams

Apart from the patterns themselves there were two things I found interesting about this paper:

Firstly, Allan describes a rather rough ride he received at VikingPLoP 2004, where apparently a lot of negative attention was focussed on whether there was “prior art” for these patterns in the pattern field. I think there is something here that any autodidact will feel an empathy towards. Whereas the scientific community (rightly) puts a lot of emphasis on whether something is new knowledge, in the world of applications there is at least as much value in “new-to-me” knowledge, or even “applications of existing knowledge in a new context”. To me patterns and pattern language fall firmly into the camps of education, application and transference between domains; not the camp of new knowledge creation. Given that, an over-obsession with “prior art” would seem to be rather inward-looking.

Secondly, Allan goes on to elaborate how his understanding and view of patterns has developed and changed, especially as a result of reading “The Springboard” (Stephen Denning, 2001), and “Patterns of Software” (Dick Gabriel, 1996) and that he now sees them as a particularly-structured form of story about a problem domain. I find this an appealing viewpoint, as it harks back to the fundamental way that human beings pass on knowledge, through the telling of stories. Of course, the nature of stories is that each person who retells a story does so in a subtly different way, and over time the story changes. Extending the simile, patterns too will change over time in a two-way exchange of knowledge between the pattern and the environment of the current user, so to say that a particular pattern is derived from (but not the same as) an earlier pattern is merely to state that evolution has occurred.

Update: Allan’s latest paper Strategies for Technology Companies has more on his interpretation of patterns as stories.

Pattern Languages and Business Strategy

I’ve been working through the books I added to my collection after the strategy course, especially Co-opetition
and (just started) Thinking Strategically.
Thinking Strategically: Competitive Edge in Business, Politics and Everyday Life
When I was on the course, especially as we started to touch on the idea that certain strategies arise inherently from the structure of any situation (especially the [bliki]Value Net[/bliki]) it occurred to me that design patterns may be the natural way to express the thinking in a condensed form.

Unfortunately (in one sense) this was also a new idea to the people on the course, and as I didn’t have time to refresh my rather surface knowledge of pattern languages whilst I was on the course, I wasn’t really in a position to develop the thinking.

In the spirit of release early, release often, I’ve made a small start with this, indexed at Strategy Patterns, and will continue to build it as I work through the books and a review of my course notes.

Patterns of Blog Posts

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Amy Gahran has started documenting patterns of blog posts. 3 of 7 posted so far. I think this a type 2!

Collaboration Pattern: Lightning Conductor

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When I “blogged”: “Sam Ruby’s”: “slides”: from his “presentation”: at “ETCon”: on lessons learned from running the “!Echo wiki”: I noted that I thought he had hit on the basics of several collaboration patterns.

I’ve put together the first draft of “LightningConductor”: (named in honour of the metaphor “Sam uses”:


Lightning Conductor


Group of people working collaboratively on a project or problem, especially if they are from diverse backgrounds or interest groups.


Discussions become emotionally-charged, often in a negative way. Some people may deliberately act in ways that impede or disrupt the group effort. The “HiddenAgenda”: “antipattern”: may be apparent.


* Perceived historical slights
* Vested interests
* Unwillingness to negotiate over desired local outcomes in interest of better overal lresult
* Lack of training / experience with collaborative working
* Malicious intent from some


One or more members of the group adopt the role of Lightning Conductor – allowing themselves to be seen as representative of the overall effort, allowing themselves to be made a target for emotional attacks and choosing their responses carefully to avoid escalation.

*Resulting Context*

The negative emotional energy of the collaboration is discharged and diffused, allowing work to proceed more effectively. Many participants find it possible to work constructively together once they have expressed their negative feelings or concerns. Others, who perhaps had malicious intent, will become frustrated at the lack of a matching emotional response and drift away in search of more responsive prey.

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