Broken maps

12 March 2004

Next week’s topic for class is around sense making. We’re framing it in terms of maps and compasses, and so as I’ve been doing things this week, I’ve been thinking about things in terms of maps.

Well one of my maps is broken. So I’m not sure what to do. Let me explain. A student has emailed me with a question. “So, what’s the problem”, I hear you ask. The difficulty is that I don’t know how to respond because:

  • I’d expect the student to know this, form stage I, and
  • It is easy to find this information from the help built into the simulation, and
  • A quick Google, brings up plenty of help on this.

In any case, it was pretty easy to answer, which I did, but it has left me thinking.

I know my map is broken because I’m become very defensive over this. I’m not sure which map is broken; is it the one around teaching or the one about being a student. It would easy to externalise thinks and say the problem lies with my map around students, and that the student broke it. But that would be very unfair.

Part of the problem is that my maps (around teaching and being a student) are very strong. The consequences of strong maps is that information that doesn’t fit tends to be ignored and discarded.

But, that’s not happening in this case. Maybe I need to let go of the map and draw a new one. McCaskey (1982) calls this a little dying and I can see (well feel) why.

At this stage, I don’t know how the map needs to be different–but at least I’m working-on-it.


McCaskey, M. B. (1982). The executive challenge: Managing change and ambiguity. Boston, MA: Pitman.