Obviously we all use our brains, and one thing we do especially well is pattern matching. We’re great at seeing, recognising and acting on patterns in the world – and that gives us valuable insights, judgement, and wisdom.
A lot of what we call intuition comes from pattern matching – even if it’s subconscious. For example, you get a routine e-mail from a landlord about their property. It looks like a fairly simple e-mail, just reporting on an interaction with one of your team members. But you know she’s upset. There’s nothing obvious in the e-mail, but subconsciously you spot something there that’s different from her normal e-mails – in other words, something that doesn’t match her usual pattern.
Or you’re making a presentation to your team, and you stop for questions. You look around the room, and even before somebody raises their hand, you know they’re going to ask a question. You call on them, and they are amazed – because perhaps they hadn’t even decided yet to ask the question! But you spotted something in their posture, a micro-expression on their face, or a tiny change that crossed your subconscious mind and registered as a pattern.
Pattern matching is valuable because it fast-tracks our decision making. If we drive a different car for the first time, we get the hang of it quickly because most of the features are exactly the same. If we eat at a new restaurant, we broadly recognise most of the items on the menu, even if we’ve never seen exactly those items before. When we get a new client and start managing their property, we have a pretty good idea what they need to know about working with us.