On the Problems and Potential of Learning Maps

If you search the web for “Mind Maps” your will find the following definition at Wikipedia: “Mind maps, a graphical method of taking notes. The visual basis of them helps one to distinguish words or ideas, often with colors and symbols. They generally take a hierarchical or tree branch format, with ideas branching into their subsections.
Mind maps allow for greater creativity when recording ideas and information, as well as allowing the note-taker to associate words with visual representations. Mind maps and concept maps are different in that mind maps focus on only one word or idea, whereas concept maps connect multiple words or ideas.”

Mind Maps therefore are the very basic version of other more complex variations called “Learning Maps” or “Engagement Maps” – I also like to call them “Cooperation Posters” – but no matter how you call them the question is what are they worth?

Summing up the primary use of those maps is to get your employees to connect the dots of the overall strategy and vision for your company with their role in making it happen. Whether you’re implementing a single initiative or a company-wide strategic shift, those maps can help convey large amounts of information and expose your people to the drama, emotion and complex stories of the change at hand so you can get the best response.

The very basic level of any map consist of:

  • icons
  • infographics
  • drawings
  • conceptual illustrations
  • metaphors

The goal is to tell your story in a visual way and facilitate conversations to create common understanding.

In an advanced mode trainers will also include:

  • imaginative and custom visual metaphors to drive intelligent discussion using data and provocative, open-ended questions
  • methods to discuss important issues, while informal facilitation helps keep the conversation on track and productive
  • quick ways to align on priorities and have a unique and shared experience

If everything is done correct, the outcome for your employees and management is as following:

  • engaged and aligned
  • better educated on the strategy
  • highly empowered with knowledge and skills
  • willing to make a new and better way reality

The big problem is that not every learning map is conducted correct. Consultancy often take advantage of the fact that those maps are new to many companies and managers. Additionally the cooperative element of employees working together to find the right solutions causes something like a “operative rush” that lures executives to think that they have bought something great here – in fact it often is just hot air…

To avoid getting pulpy products to high prices you should always keep in mind my little checklist:

  1. Is the map really fitted for your company’s needs (design, colors, problem)?
  2. Is the map subdivided into several working steps?
  3. Is a compressing development recognizable in the map?
  4. Does the map provide the correct level of abstraction?
  5. Is there a clear outcome/ learning in the end?
  6. Is the data from several working groups condensable, too?

Some examples for good learning maps…

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The pictures are taken from a post of The Axelrod Group

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