Check your Mental Map

One night at a dinner party visiting friends in London, I had the group laughing at my tortuous path to dinner on the London Underground. As a tourist I had travelled the long way across multiple lines between two stations that are a short walk apart. My mental map of London was the tube map and I didn’t realise how much the geography differed. I am not alone – up to 30% of passengers on the tube take a longer than necessary journey by following the iconic map.

The human brain loves patterns. We absorb maps and make them our guides to daily action. In our work context these maps may not be as pretty as the underground map but we have familiar patterns that describe our inputs, our key relationships, our processes and our outputs. We carry these maps from job to job and organisation to organisation. Often we carry them long beyond their usefulness.

Usual our work maps don’t reflect the potential geography. They are a simplification of the complexity of the real world with real customers. They don’t adjust often enough to the shifting context of our organisation.

Check your mental map. Share your work with others doing similar work or your stakeholders. Working out loud is one way to let someone else’s better local knowledge guide us to a better way. Experiments in changing practices help us to keep our mental map of work updated.

Doing what you have always done, gets you where you always get. Change the map and you change your potential. Look for the opportunity to work in ways that are easier and more effective.

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