Cartographer Needs in 2018


On June 29 a small group from the Wardley Maps Community got together to discuss cartographer needs in 2018.

Ben Mosior [BM], John Grant [JG] Chair, Kennedy Collins [KC], Kim Sia Sim [KS], Marcus Guest [MG]

The main discussion points have been summarised below:

Working on the assumption we all consider ourselves trainee cartographers, let’s explore cartographer needs from a slightly different angle. We have different backgrounds from different cultures. Sadly, we lack gender diversity on this call, but that is work in progress for the community. Even so, we’ll have a wide range of interesting stories to tell about Wardley Mapping. Think about what initially drew you to mapping. It will be interesting to hear what is behind your motivation to study the technique. Next, think about the skills you have used to practice mapping. For this discussion, let’s not cover hard skills - those skills grounded in technical knowledge or domain-specific expertise. Instead, let’s focus on soft skills - i.e. transferrable, interpersonal and people skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communicating ideas and creativity.

[JG] I am based in the UK. As a researcher, a lot of what I do is data-driven and statistical techniques can take you a long way. But when there is little data to work from, mapping is a technique that can take me beyond working with intuition alone.

[JG] Regarding soft skills, mapping is useful for collaboration and rapport building. Active listening and questioning assumptions are important. The ability to summarise concepts and distil ideas in plain language is also useful. Succinct labelling of components can add value to a map.

[BM] I am based in the United States. Wardley Mapping fits right within my way of operating. I thought, “wow, I can use this technique instead of trying to keep it all in my head. I can create artefacts and share those”. What keeps me there is the basic utility of applying doctrine. Knowing who the users are. Knowing what their needs are. Knowing what the work even is! If you can construct a value chain, I’m blown away by how much better you can be than the status quo right now. Then beyond that, being able to understand how to approach each activity. That is so powerful.

[BM] I’d like to help more people, especially those reluctant to read a whole book on theory before practice. I want to get those folks exposed to these concepts so they can get a little taste of what they could accomplish.

[KC] I am also based in the United States. I discovered Wardley Mapping while searching for strategy techniques. I was reading Michael Porter, and I started to look for more information about value chains and ended up finding Simon’s writing. I have found Wardley Mapping valuable for working through strategic decision-making problems. Deciding what exactly are we trying to build. What’s the best way to use limited resources? As a product manager working exclusively with start-ups, entirely a game of limited resources and deciding what is going to happen and its impact, having this framework to think through problems was really useful. Especially working as a product manager, I found mapping useful as a communication tool simply because a lot of the work that I would do was framing the problem, then sending that problem off for designers and engineers to solve. To be able to communicate the context around the problem, the situation we were in, exactly what we were trying to accomplish, in a much more granular and more intuitive way than I had previously done.

[KC] The big soft skill for me is my design background. My ability to draw maps in a way that they are easy to read. Using design aspects to lay things out transparently so you stop trying to interpret what the map is trying to say and just read what the map is saying.

[KS] I am based in Singapore. I’ve always been fascinated by strategy. I grew up reading military strategy and business strategy books. When I stumbled on the Wardley Maps book on Medium, I was blown away, and that’s what got me started.

[KS] I run a consultancy firm, and the work I do tends to be project based. I am exploring ideas to develop standalone products. Mapping is providing the means to share and test my ideas.

[MG] I am currently based in Russia. We originally started using the work of Dave Snowden and Cognitive Edge. Tools that try to make sense of a complex world. We got some traction but it tended to be outside Russia. I felt there was something missing in what we were doing. I came across Wardley Maps a couple of years ago. I started to use mapping alongside SenseMaker to show clients why they needed to focus on customer needs and user needs. Since the financial crisis Russians are realising they must focus on needs. Also, unlike SenseMaker, maps do resonate with Russians. Having a military background, being a huge country, being a land empire rather than a navel empire I guess. To some extent my entire business is now moving towards mapping. Our aim is to make the entire country start mapping. We can then start to put services on top of that such as Future Sensing and Anticipation as a Service - sadly the abbreviation doesn’t work. I spent ten years as a general manager. I also spent three years as a strategy director in the Big Four so the top of a map rather than the bottom really interests me. There is an opportunity in Russia to continue the work of Simon Wardley to try and destroy consultancies and our dependency on them.

[MG] We aim to get people to map. A consultancy shouldn’t charge you for the discovery of your context. If you map your context and you understand your context, and you recognise you need some technical skills, well then you can call the experts in and get them to look at your maps. One of the areas in Wardley Maps I’m diving into is customer needs. I don’t think it’s as evolved as it could be. There’s no point in asking customers for feedback if you do nothing about it. We have a product launch in Canada and South Africa which focuses on outcome marketing. With that, I think we can be more sophisticated at the top of the map.

[MG] I don’t know how to answer the question about soft skills. To me it’s all about sales. It’s about getting people to start using maps. We are launching free webinars and free workshops in order to try and train people. I’m all-in on maps at the moment. It’s a big part of our business.

[MG] We feel there is a big opportunity in Russia to spread mapping and spread it quite quickly. One observation, I’m not a technical guy and I’m probably the only person I’ve come across in the mapping community that doesn’t have a technical background. I’m quite interested in trying to move up the map with that a little bit because that’s where the money is.

Wardley Maps facilitate collaboration. Collaboration is a soft skill. So, could Wardley Mapping also be viewed as a soft skill?

[MG] I teach complexity, sense-making and innovation at a university. Wardley Mapping is a core skill and is pitched as a communication tool. The essence of complexity is about interactions and mapping gives you a tool for doing that. So, Wardley Maps are probably best pitched as a communications tool. That doesn’t sound quite as sexy for people who want to do strategy. I think we can’t start selling this as a tool that does strategy because no one is going to come to us for strategy. They are going to go where they perceive comfort. I think we can move towards strategy but selling it early on as perhaps operational improvement or operational efficiency but pitch it as a communications tool first and foremost. So perhaps Wardley Mapping is a major soft skill.

[KC] My experience in architecture informs this and is another reason why I was drawn to mapping. You can talk about how you want to design a building forever. I still hear the voice of my undergraduate thesis advisor. I would talk to him about what I wanted to do with the building we were working on. He would say, “You’ll have to draw it. I can’t imagine what you are describing until you draw it”. A picture is worth a thousand words. It makes perfect sense to describe Wardley Mapping as a tool for communication.

[MG] I look at intuition as being the application of past patterns to current situations. I take Gary Klein’s definition of insights which is sudden unexpected shifts to better stories that enable you to lead to breakthrough action. I think that is what Wardley Mapping gives you. It’s not only the chance to look at your assumptions, but it’s a way of triggering insights which is a better way of moving forward. That’s why I think it will open up strategy when you start to see the landscape you are operating in is not what you thought it was and not what the rest of your competitors think it is. Insights allow us to look at the same thing differently and that’s the sales, that’s the soft skill, in terms of showing how just communicating and interacting is going to be massively valuable to people - once they can over the fact that what they’ve been doing for their entire career is actually BS.

What else could the community be doing to raise awareness of Wardley Mapping?

[BM] One of the best environments for learning mapping is a hackathon.

[MG] We are planning to have these open workshops and we’re going to focus on questions which are painful. We’re going to focus on the retail industry first because it evolves more quickly. We are going to get retail experts to come in and ask them, “What are you going to do when Amazon hits Russia?”. Get them to focus on a question that is painful for them and use maps to get somewhere in terms of having some kind of concept around it or awareness about some of the things they could or should be doing.

[BM] What would happen if mapping was quietly slipped into an existing process? Say I establish a grant writing business were the onboarding process for clients was the articulation of a map. As a communications mechanism, it’s a contract for understanding what it is you are trying to do strategically. If I as an outsourced grant writer can look at your strategy and articulate how that fits this one grant we’re writing a proposal for, that opens a whole new world of maps as contracts. Or, maps as a shared understanding between different groups.

[MG] Simon talks a lot about spend control and if you look at his 100-day plan that’s what we are productising here. Part of that is the spend control function which is having this mechanism for communication and learning which is mapping. It’s not a thing in itself you are going to sell. It’s the way of approaching things that opens up a big opportunity.


Nature abhors a vacuum - I think you mean replace the high overhead consultancies fronted by snake oil sales people. Companies need to hire in thinkers.