The four universal behaviours

These four behaviors can be applied to any field to improve results and learning speed. The more unbalanced your application of these behaviors is the more benefit you will obtain by rebalancing them. The four behaviours are: opportunistic, deliberative, procedural and reactive.


Being opportunistic means to exploit unique conditions that give a temporary advantage. Opportunistic behaviour can be in your usual domain but truly opportunistic behaviour is when you exploit an opportunity that is not in your domain.This is frequently spotting an opportunity outside the usual domain. eg, An artist seeking a gap in the market that his entrepreneur friend can easily fill.


Deliberative behaviour is when you are consciously performing an action for a specific outcome. Being deliberate uses a lot of mental effort so your mind automates many regular activities to make you more efficient. A deliberative behaviour that is automated behaviour becomes procedural.


A procedural behaviour is either a behaviour that follows either your or someone else’s template. When you are following your own procedure, you are doing something automatically that you initially did deliberatively. When you are following a procedure that someone else designed you no longer have access to all the reasons and explanations that initially resulted in a specific procedure. You are following a ritual that may or may not still be relevant. By eliminating all superfluous information you vastly simplify your choices and effort. However, your behaviour becomes fragile. If any part of the behaviour goes missing it can break down completely.


Reactive behaviour is done instinctively(does not need to be learned) when triggered. It usually happens directly after being triggered but can be modified by deliberative action to become a procedure.

These 4 patterns of behaviour correlate to the four personality traits in Adizes’s management book Mastering Change. If you can mix 4 people who each personifies a pure expression of these types you will achieve balance . You will neither start too many projects that you do not finish nor will you miss rare opportunities for disproportionate reward. You will have procedures that improve your daily functioning as well as reactive behaviours that take care of emergencies.

Each phase of business’s lifecycle, as well as different industries, require different proportions of these different behaviours. Just compare a startup with a mature business or a justice system with emergency services.  A crude example is that of a startup vs a government branch.

A startup has to explore a lot more and be a lot more flexible than a government. The stereotypical archetype of someone who works at a startup is one of opportunism. He easily changes course and starts doing something radically different. He has no fixed procedures and breaks rules without blinking. He thinks fast, moves fast and acts fast. He easily abandons a project to chase after the next big thing.

The stereotypical archetype of a bureaucrat is  someone who follows procedures. He is slow to react, slow of speech and slow to make up his mind. He mainly does the same thing over and over. He finds it very painful to abandon a project and resists change even when it is obvious that change is inevitable.

This wheel from the long now shows how different aspects of society c


Image by The Long Now foundation

hanges at different speeds. The government is a whole level slower than infrastructure and three levels slower than fashion. A person with a fast-paced temperament in governance would die from boredom, and a person with a slow-paced temperament would have a nervous breakdown from the frantic pace of change in fashion.


When choosing an industry or company for a career take into account how your tempo matches with that of the company and industry. If you have no problem with standing out a little it might even be a good idea to choose one that does not match exactly. You can be the calming or agitating influence in that company and benefit by having a unique perspective and workflow. When you are hiring use the fundamental strategies of all four behaviours to prevent groupthink and take advantage of the benefits of diversity.

When you are hiring use the fundamental strategies of all four behaviours to prevent groupthink and take advantage of the benefits of diversity. If you have too many projects that do not get finished hire people who are more deliberate. If you are highly optimized and every day is like the previous you might want to hire some opportunistic people to spot new opportunities and create some creative chaos.

To happiness, and beyond!



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