Taken to extremes

Posted by Doc
Feb 28 2009

Any pattern is a good thing, until taken to extremes.

Consider Curious George. Curious George, asking questions and exploring possibilities, helps to stimulate conversation and bring out useful information.

Curious George taken to extremes,  however, becomes an obstacle. His persistent and insistent questioning can become a new antipattern, the Inquisitor. The Inquisitor doesn’t ask questions for the purpose of moving the group’s goals forward. The Inquisitor nails her victim, drilling down, and tenaciously, even insistenlty, digging and digging until the victim gives up in sheer exhaustion. The Inquisitor takes the “five whys” to the point of absurdity, like a four-year-old who – when told that the sky is blue – asks “why” until you want to run screaming.

Even neutrality can be taken too far. While I’ve made it clear that I believe that one of the key attributes of a facilitator is neutrality, nonetheless, there are times when a facilitator must take a position and a stand, when it comes to the good of the group and the process. Failure to take a stand and take action at those times becomes a new antipattern, Wishy-Washy.

I’m convinced that most positive patterns, taken to extremes, can become antipatterns.

Is it possible to go the other way? Are the attributes that define antipattern behaviors capable of being beneficial patterns, when applied in more limited doses?

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