Design from patterns to details

In permaculture, nature provides the pattern the gardener works from. Naturally occurring patterns enable energy flow. They ensure self-sustainability and self perpetuation.

“Design from patterns to details: by stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.”

When we ignore natural patterns, we block or disrupt natural energy flow creating more work and lower yields.

It takes time to observe and understand a pattern before we start to work with it . Eventually we want to design a system that works with, supports and enhances the natural flow of energy.

If you’re looking at your business and trying to find the patterns, they don’t have to be big or obvious. Try looking beyond patterns that sound like ‘this activity makes me the most money’ or ‘this is the most efficient way I’ve found to accomplish x’.

It could be something as simple as ‘when I do this activity, I feel good.’

Use edges and value the marginal

“The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.” - Principles of Permaculture

In permaculture, this principle often refers to making use of every inch of space you have. It’s illustrated by Vancouverites’ use of a disused railway track as a community garden. Or a Japanese garden in a dense urban area with espaliered fruit trees, container compost and vines taking advantage of roof space. Or a free street library set up next to a bus stop in Sydney, Australia offering a chance to explore new ideas as you sit at the interface between one part of your day and another.

What happens when you have produce in your fridge at the edge of going bad? You force yourself to cook with it, to combine it with other things you have on hand that maybe you hadn’t thought of before. The results are often more interesting, more delicious than on the days when the contents of your fridge spoil you for choice.

Are there unexplored edges to your business? Perhaps it’s an idea for collaboration you have just been too busy for. Are there areas you have neglected that are on the edge of disappearing altogether? What if you pushed yourself to use them, improve them, turn them into something worth talking about again?