By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th March 2016
Our mental maps
I’ve noticed lately that my brain is not as sharp as it usually is. For example, when setting off in my car I have to think carefully about where I’m going, and then re-create my mental map of how to get there. Trying to remember the name of an actor, I see his face, his expressions, other things that he’s acted in before his name eventually comes back to me. Hopefully this lack of sharpness is just a temporary result of how busy my work and life have been, and this Easter break will act as a restorative! Meanwhile, it’s a useful context for this blog…
Isn’t a lot of what we remember dependent on the mental maps that we’ve created? How we’ve slotted together various pieces of information? Like the game we used to play with the children: here’s a person, a place and an object – let’s create a story from them.
Personal knowledge maps as analogies of organisational knowledge maps
In organisations, knowledge maps are described as an inventory of their internal and external sources of information and knowledge. I quite like the idea of considering our mental maps as personal knowledge maps.
Creating personal knowledge maps about Project Management
Teaching people about Project Management recently has acted as a reminder and an illustration of how I pass on my own mental knowledge map to others. My one-slide overview that I shared in “A second look at project management, RiverRhee Consulting November – December, 2015” is a useful artefact to act as a starting point, or framework , for sharing my map and to help delegates build their own.
We go on from there to explore all the different aspects of managing a project such as: clarifying the goals, scope, anticipated benefits and building a strong relationship with the sponsor; understanding the constraints the project is under; identifying key milestones, and interdependencies and developing a project plan; managing risks, issues, decisions and actions; managing stakeholders and the associated change; building a strong project team. We explore each of these topics: my experience and theirs, tools and approaches. They reflect upon, practise and apply their existing and new knowledge to specific challenges they have been tackling.
As we talk we discover that the delegates have some useful resources and artefacts that they can slot into their new maps for managing projects:
- Other people with expertise that they can draw upon
- Formal meetings that are part of their organisation’s mechanisms for making key decisions about projects
- Documents that describe procedures or act as templates for managing projects
- Databases that hold key information about projects and which they are expected to add to
Each time I teach a course like this, my delegates’ experiences, resources and artefacts become woven into my mental map too so that, next time I share it, with a new set of delegates, they too benefit from the new knowledge that I’ve gained.
On a more personal note
This idea of personal knowledge maps and what might happen to them was made especially poignant to me recently as I read “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, and about the main character’s experience of Alzheimer’s. As her disease progressed it eroded so many of her memories and of the connections or mental maps she had made. Distressing as the story was, it was also heartwarming in the account of how Alice and her family dealt with it. How for example they created videos to remind her of their shared memories. And how feelings could still be communicated. It was a reminder to me too of how much I value this dynamic sharing and development of our individual maps as I interact with others.
About the author
Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)
Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.
Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.
She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.