Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Maxim Shipenkov/AAP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Maxim Shipenkov/AAP)

All of us sometimes fantasise about how we would spend the money if we won the lottery, but we might not realise how much those fantasies reveal. As it turns out, there’s surprising information contained within those daydreams. Pattern-break analysis, a method I explore in my book A Sense of the Enemy, is the study of how dramatic, unexpected events expose underlying drivers.

If you won the $100 million jackpot, would you quit your job immediately, or would you simply carry on as usual but with a few more vacations? It’s our behaviour around these pattern-breaking moments that can expose what truly drives us. If we know how that works, we can learn something about ourselves. And if we apply those tools to strategic opponents, we can learn how they act, too.

In my study of how historical figures tried to understand their enemies, I found that the ones who succeeded most, such as Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi or German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann, had a method. They focused on an enemy’s behaviour around pattern-breaking moments for clues to that enemy’s key drivers. The current Ukraine crisis is such a moment. It offers us an important lesson not in how Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks -- but in how the Chinese leadership does.