If you are old enough to remember a time before ubiquitous GPS, you might remember web services like Multimap or Streetmap (or even earlier installed software like Autoroute). These tools could allow you to plot a route between two places, and then print off a map and a list of turn-by-turn instructions.

If everyone were an intuitive map-reader why would such services be needed? The answer is that reading maps is not, it seems, a innate human ability.

I’m realising this as I work to engage people in the programme of change that were are about to undertake.

I am a map person. I can spend hours looking at maps. I think in terms of the way in which a map can provide information through spatial positioning – a geographic map, a Wardley Map, a 2×2 matrix, a technology architecture diagram. It’s how my brain works.

But some people just don’t process information in this way. They don’t want a map, they want a list. Confusingly, sometimes they will ask for a “roadmap” when in fact what they want is a list – what will happen, in what order, and when.

The challenge for map-brained people when trying to convey information to list-brained people is that, well, we don’t think alike. I don’t want to write a list, because the reality from my perspective isn’t list-shaped. What will happen in the far-future is subject to change depending on what happens to in the near-future. Life is not like a list. We live in a world of Clocks, not Clouds.

We need to compromise. I can provide you with a list, but on certain conditions. The conditions are based on my ability to predict the future.

To use an artistic analogy I can provide you a list. Today will be like a photograph. The next few weeks, photo-realism. The month or so after that becomes realism, then after six months or so we enter impressionism. By next year, probably, it goes from impressionism to abstract. Not all projects or pieces of work have necessarily the same diminishing timeframe. But the level of accuracy in a list will decrease the further we got into the future.

I can make you a list, but you can’t expect me to be able to guarantee the list. I promise, however, that I’ll be using a map at all times.

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