Friday, May 01, 2015

On Evolution, Maps and Bad Choices

It took me about ten years of thinking about strategy before I stumbled on the issue of situational awareness in business and drew my first map (2005).  When it comes to competition there are a number of key factors involved in success. These include :-

1) Purpose : That which causes others to desire to follow you without fear and to have harmony with your goal.

2) Situational Awareness : Understanding your landscape, the prevailing economic climate & patterns and exploiting this to your advantage. This is the core underpinning of strategic play.

3) Leadership : your ability to command and be followed. These include the virtues of leadership - sincerity, humanity, courage, firmness and wisdom.

4) Doctrine : The organisation, the mechanisms of control and governance, its cultural forms, the methods applied.

All are necessary components. Often you find them lacking in business. The one area I find to be almost void of substance is situational awareness and strategic play hence my constant focus on mapping. One thing that does slightly peeve me, is having spent ten years looking for a way to map a business and then giving it away creative commons that people insist of changing the axis for NO GOOD REASON. By all means experiment but think about why. Those axis were based upon many many thousands of data points, it's not randomly plucked from the air.

To show you the problem, let us take a map  from 2005 (see figure 1). The map has position and movement (critical parts of situational awareness). It starts with user need (point 1) contains multiple chains of needs (point 2) and even allows you to anticipate change caused by competition (point 3 and 4). 

Figure 1 - A Map.

The most common way people want to change the map is by changing evolution to either time, diffusion, technology maturity or some form of hype cycle. These are all flawed because you lose any concept of movement and hence any ability to anticipate change.

For example, let us take the compute component from the above map and put it into a map based upon Gartner's hype cycle (see figure 2). Now certainly you can create a value chain (i.e. position) but compute as a product (i.e. servers) were in the plateau of productivity long ago. With the above Wardley map then you can anticipate the development of "cloud" far in advance because it's based upon evolution. With the below HypeCycle map, the hype axis measures hype of an activity and not evolution. There is no way to anticipate evolution. Instead what happens is a more evolved form (i.e. Cloud or IaaS) appears in the "Technology Trigger".

Figure 2 - Hype Cycle "Map"

It doesn't matter whether you use hype cycles, diffusion curves or time. You cannot anticipate evolution and hence change (i.e. movement) without an evolution axis. Without position and movement you will never gain better situational awareness and losing this is a bad choice.

Does it really matter though? Take the map below on the battle Thermopylae. The map (like a chessboard, like a Wardley map) allows you to see position and movement. In this case the map is based upon two geographical axis - North to South, East to West.

Figure 3 - Battle of Thermopylae.

Now despite the map giving us position, movement and proving useful -  let's change the axis!  Let's pluck two out of the air, say distance from coast and landscape (i.e. type of terrain). Let us now draw that.

Figure 4 - A modified Map.

Can you really tell me that by looking at the above X's which have no positional or movement information then it is obvious we should follow the red lines and block of the straits of Artemisian and force the Persians into Thermoplyae? If you were a solider in Thebes and had been given this map, could you work out where to go? Which direction Thermopylae is in? The modified map by losing position and movement is practically useless. 

About ten years of thinking went into finding that first map. Thousands of data points helped to build those axis. Ten years of practice since then has improved it from that first map in 2005.  I know, I know you're a "strategy consultant" but do think about position and movement and whether you know what the hell you're talking about.

You can guess, someone gave me an "improved map" which is improved to the point of rendering it useless.