2015/07/03 17:40 Wolfgang Stark, “Performative Patterns for Innovation: The Power of Tacit Knowing in Social Systems”, Purplsoc

At Purplsoc, Wolfgang Stark org psych and org development, U. Duisburg-Essen, Germany

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the Coevolving Innovations web site by David Ing.

At PURPLSOC (Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change) 2015, Danube University Krems, Austria

Introduction by Richard Sickinger

First met three years ago, on tacit knowledge

A small circle of pattern fans, growing

Going beyond the original pattern approach, although maybe there’s no way to go beyond

Came to patterns, working on organizational development lab, started a center for innovation and sustainable leadership

  • Trying to find new ways to solve problems
  • A real lab?

Purplsoc: Wolfgang Stark

Design patterns have been to increase effectiveness, and reduce complexity

  • Uses options rather than winding option
  • Organizing versus learning
  • Organizing means to forget something, e.g. lose some records in a table, e.g. two chair representing a table
  • Learning has importance to expand opportunity, results, go beyond
  • Pattern has the potential with learning
  • In order to enhance a creative approach, patterns may need to sense something:  hidden knowledge of the many, in a community, not just the politicians but the people who know how to grow trees or make great wine, it’s not written down
  • Trying to detect, write down patterns:  tacit knowledge

Performative pattern language based on …

  • (1) John Dewey, education is “a process of living, and not a preparation for future living”.
  • No such thing as education without experience
  • Dewey as a grand grandfather of pattern language
  • (2) Michael Polanyi, Hungarian, “Tacit Knowing”
  • Reprinted recently with new forward by Amartya Sen, Nobel prize winner
  • Pattern approach can detect and use hidden knowledge
  • (3) Frederich Schiller (a good friend of Goethe, a foundation of German culture, also a philosopher and political)
  • Wrote, in a series of letters to his sponsor, the Count of Saxonia (?), On the Aesthetic Education of Man
  • How the approach of the arts could be integrated in to the pattern approach, and into society
  • Was a split / specialization, where the arts would become a special department as a “nice to have”, not as very important to society
  • (4) Christopher Alexander, in the Battle for Life and Beauty of the Earth, on aesthetic in an indirect way

Forms of knowledge in social systems

  • Explicit knowledge (encoded)
  • Implicit knowledge (embodied, but not yet encoded)
  • Transcending knowledge (not yet existing) maybe a hunch, vague idea
  • Managers and politicians relay on gut instinct
  • Feeling it’s right, then rationalizing backwards: important to think about science of experience, as more than 80% of decisions are based on experience, not science or expert knowledge
  • Science or expert knowledge to legitimize
  • Need to know more about tacit knowledge


  • Myth:  there are geniuses, e.g. Michelangelo cutting statue, said he saw the culture, they cut it out
  • Could look at knowledge by looking at results, i.e. explicit knowledge
  • Sometimes look at cross-effects
  • Rarely look at the material (e.g. writing an early idea on a piece of paper, the empty sheet, empty canvas)
  • Michaelangelo wasn’t that much a genius, he was running around looking at rock for 6 months
  • Detecting explicit knowledge:  forgot to deal with with materials
  • Architects deal with materials, but many forget who will live in the house, in the future
  • Frank Lloyd Wright made students built own shelters, live there for a year

Started working with patterns, what is the real wisdom of organizations?

  • Organizations aren’t running based on expert wisdom
  • They’re working on improvisation
  • Improvising as if plan A fails, then improvise plan B
  • To understand improvisation, worked with a jazz combo, without a leader, musicians change over time
  • Improvisation as the art of redesigning disorder collectively
  • Most of the time, it doesn’t work, people identifying what’s happening


  • Could be intangible tools
  • Awareness can’t been learn
  • Experimentation

Expanding complexity

William Forsythe, Youtube video using patterns to divide space in dance, e.g. have a line, try to avoid it

Improvisational patterns (talking with theatre and dance people)

  • 1. Say yes, and:  don’t stop a process, go on and find a new way
  • 2. Make others look good
  • 3. Taking turns in soloing and supporting:  not leader and employer

Elements of improvisation

  • Also try to apply musical thinking to organizations scores:  if you organization was a musical score, how would you write it down?
  • Pattern generating machine:  have people sketch or notate their work.

Want to do something different

  • Basic action patterns?
  • Synchronizing patterns?
  • Rreflection patterns?
  • how to link patterns with mimal structur

Want a language, not just patterns that go together in a single category.


#pattern-language, #purplsoc2015