Highest order patterns (HOPs)

An instinct to generalization, a tactics for problem solving and thinking BIG

Almost a year has passed since I first introduced the concept of "Highest Order Pattern" into my vocabulary. Since then, I have been actively applying it to my observations in both work and daily tasks. Moreover, I have shared the principles of HoP thinking with some of my subordinates, encouraging them to incorporate this approach into our everyday work practices.

A Highest Order Pattern (HOP) is the most fundamental and evident generalization of a concept. It acts as a mental shortcut, providing a clear understanding of the core meaning behind similar situations. By capturing this semantic essence, HOPs allow us to efficiently navigate the world and apply knowledge to new scenarios. It's a conceptual blueprint of a concept.

Hah! Does it sound too straightforward? Let's delve into some scenarios and explore how HOPs can be utilized in blueprinting.

For instance, consider the concept of Pranayama, which encompasses everything related to the mechanics of breathing. It establishes "The art of inhale and exhale" as the highest order pattern, leading to the development of numerous breathing exercises and techniques.

Lego bricks hold an undeniable fascination. Despite their varied shapes and sizes, these seemingly simple pieces possess an almost magical ability to click together flawlessly. If I have to find a HOP in Lego's core, it's universal attachment. It's the fundamental principle that transcends individual pieces, forming a universal language of creativity. Several copycat brands prioritize form over function, failing to make a lasting impact. Lego, by sticking to the HOP, has become a brand capable of transforming plastic bricks into a cultural phenomenon that continues to captivate generations.

Let's do one more.

The chirp of a bird or the clatter of pots can morph into an unexpected melody. Why? The secret lies in music's fundamental blueprint: the Melody, Harmony, Rhythm. This core principle isn't reserved for composers. Even everyday sounds can become surprisingly musical when these elements come together in a balanced and structured way.

It gets addictive, the more you try to look into. Here's a list you can delve into for further exploration -

  1. Scientific Research

    Hypothesis, Experimentation, Data Analysis, and Conclusion

  2. Game Design

    Engaging Challenge with Clear Goals*-* (Rules, challenges, interactions, progression systems, and rewards.)

  3. Fitness Training

    **Progressive Overload (**Gradually increasing exercise intensity or duration over time to stimulate muscle growth and adaptation)

Having explored the power of HOPs in understanding concepts, let's now shift gears and see how we can leverage them in the real world. HOPs aren't just theoretical tools; they can be actively applied to various aspects of our lives, from simplifying complex tasks to fostering deeper learning. In the following sections, we'll delve into some practical applications of HOPs, showcasing their versatility and impact in different contexts.

Remember the LR3 consumer journey funnel I often discuss (Lead, Revenue, Retention, and Religion)? It's a perfect example of a Highest Order Pattern (HOP) in action. This framework, which outlines the stages of customer engagement (LR3), serves as a blueprint for understanding how consumers move through the buying process. It can be practically applied to marketing strategies and customer experience design. The fact that your colleagues even started citing LR3 as a reference point (like LL, R1, R2, R3) further highlights the power of this HOP – it offers a clear and concise way to communicate complex customer behavior, especially when considering the distinct stages of lead generation, revenue acquisition, customer retention, and ultimately, brand advocacy ("Religion").

In my current approach to work and problem-solving, I employ HOP tactics, which I believe significantly enhance our understanding of what we are trying to solve. By daring to conceive ambitious goals of 'How big something can be,' HoP thinking allows for expansive reasoning and exploration of potential solutions.

Scenario 1

A client comes up with a requirement as -

Upon scanning a QR code on our product packaging, your application should prompt the user to provide additional information. Subsequently, this information will be sent to our designated email address. Following this, the application should reward the customer as a form of instant gratification.

While QR codes act as the initial trigger, the core HOP of this system is Incentivized Data Collection. We further break this down into smaller, more manageable sub-HOPs:

  • Parametric Form Generation: The form generator can adapt to different client needs. Parameters control the number and type of input fields (adding an extra one for a specific client is simple), reducing development time and deployment overhead.

  • Structured QR Codes for Flexible Triggers: The data embedded in the QR code utilizes a well-defined structure, allowing easy replacement of form triggers without modifying the actual QR code itself.

  • Actionable Targets on Submission: Upon form submission, the system can send emails, redirect users to specific links, or even offer instant coupons.

Defining these HOPs upfront promotes clarity and maintainability for the development team. They act as a blueprint for future growth, ensuring the system adapts and scales as business needs evolve. This approach prevents feature debt and ultimately leads to a more efficient and robust product.

Scenario 2

A Feature Frenzy: Too Many Changes, Too Few Safe Releases

Even though the developers have completed their features, a team consistently encounters challenges when attempting to push their code to production.

Digging deeper, we discovered that frequent changes to core functionalities, HOP being - Scrutiny of Critical Components in the Production Pipeline. To lift up this hesitation in deployments, a prioritization strategy was devised. Software features and business requirements were divided into critical and non-critical components. Critical components where then supposed to have a more rigorous testing process to ensure stability before deployment, while non-critical changes could be integrated with a streamlined approach. This separation of workflows allowed for faster deployments without jeopardizing the stability of core system functionalities.

In my experience, there are several other instances where I've subconsciously applied HOP thinking. While some of these scenarios are confidential and can't be shared publicly, mapping them out alongside real-world examples should be enough to spark an understanding of what a HOP is and how it can be incredibly helpful.

A company's core purpose is the Highest Order Pattern (HOP) of some problem they see. This HOP, often aligned with the founder's vision (think Simon Sinek's "Why") or identified through market gaps, drives the company's mission. Company taglines and mission statements often encapsulate this core problem they aim to solve. While some HOPs might focus on massive global challenges, others might address more specific yet impactful issues.

  • Examples:

    • Airbnb's HOP: "Make travel seamless and affordable for everyone." (Addressing the problem of inconvenient and expensive lodging options)

    • Tesla's HOP: "Accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." (Solving the problem of dependence on fossil fuels)

User persona is a HOP of what category of consumers, a product should ideally serve.

Before summing up,

Design Patterns in Software engineering is a HOP to make an uniform understanding of how code should be written across peers.

An infamous opinion on how our governance mostly runs would be - "Hygiene and Follow up". What Hygiene is again a HOP.

Protocols in engineering are the HOPs to define how communication between systems should happen.

Fever can be seen as a HOP, indicating an underlying infection.

Units of measurement are outcomes of HOP realization of how something should be quantified.

and it grows.

At last,

HOP is a HOP of a style of looking into problems and deducing a pattern to solve them.