Repetitions in Time


‘Rhythm’ represents the waves and cycles of a system.

All natural systems have regular repetitions and cycles that order events over time. The most important ecological cycle is the annual changing of the seasons caused by the tilt in the earth’s axis relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun. The moon causes ocean tides to ebb and flow with a complex monthly rhythm which is in turn overlaid with the pulse of waves caused by the wind. Both the seasons and the tides then coordinate biological activities, fertility cycles, resource pulses and a host of other natural rhythms. What role do rhythms play within a system? Think about how having holidays at irregular and random times from year to year would effect the organisation of your workplace. What would happen if there was never any variation to the routine? Does your household function better when your families weekly routine is regular and uninterrupted? How could you balance an existing Rhythm or integrate a new one into a system in your life to improve how it is organised? How do rhythms serve to coordinate systems?


The arrows represent regular cyclical processes through time. The two inner shapes denote ‘parts’ that are encompassed by the larger oval into a ‘whole’ system.

The Rhythm Pattern is closely related to and serves as an aspect of the Source Pattern, the most foundational organising principle within PatternDynamics.


The temporal aspects of systems.


The Rhythm Pattern represents the repetitions, swings, pulses and synchronizations that align the elements and activities of a system through time. Rhythms provide a regularity that allows elements of a system to coordinate with each other. Rhythms must possess a reliable regularity, but they must also change and adapt to evolving circumstances. The role of Rhythm is to coordinate events in time.


The principle of good timing: the enduring health of any system depends on the appropriate balance and integration of the temporal capacity for both regularity and variation, for a given context.


The Rhythm Pattern is a major aspect of Source, the most foundational organising pattern of all systems. Click here to view Charts illustrating Pattern composition and their relationships.



Organism: All life forms have rhythms of activity that vary in order to support the health of that organism.  Respiration in animals is a good example of a rhythmic activity that serves to coordinate the activity of the entire organism in order to keep it healthy. If the rhythm of respiration is too slow the animal will not have enough oxygen to drive metabolic processes, but if it is too fast it may cause hyperventilation–the loss of too much carbon dioxide from the blood and resultant loss of blood pressure.

Ecosystem: Humans have intervened in natural forest fire cycles by introducing smaller, but more frequent fires. This keeps the fuel load from building up to the point where there are large, hot fires that may destroy property. Changing the Rhythm of fire frequency has other wider effects on the ecosystem, including changing species composition of both plants and animals, altering soil conditions and changing predator/prey relationships.


Organisation: Businesses have financial reporting cycles that influence rhythms within the business like capital expenditures, investment strategies and wage level adjustments. In most cases annual reporting is sufficient, but if a business is undergoing a period of rapid growth or change it may be necessary to do more frequent financial analysis in order to keep the business healthy.

Economy: All scales of economies throughout history have displayed extremities and irregularities in their levels of activity which has posed challenges for the sustainability of those economies. This is referred to as a ‘boom and bust’ dynamic. Governments and financial institutions regularly intervene to try to moderate extreme swings in financial activities and to introduce more reliability into the rhythms of financial markets.