Monday, October 10, 2011

The Map Is Not The Territory

To have a shared understanding with one or more people it helps to understand they are not using the same map as you are.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioners tell us that even though we may believe other people are like us, the truth is that each of us has our own personal perception of the world. As human beings, we respond to people, situations, events and circumstances through our internal maps. Our maps can be likened to a camera lens filter. Every experience we have from the moment of birth to the present serve as filters through which we perceive current events and situations in our lives. These filters, or maps, influence our reactions and decision making in the here and now. Two people who share an experience will often notice significantly different things about that experience, respond differently and store different memories of the experience.

So NLP tells us that “the map is not the territory", it is our individual interpretation of the territory. Great, NLP folks can tell us something useful, but how is this useful to us?

Being relatively new additions to the business leader's toolkit, creativity and innovation are topics that inspire a huge number of articles and books to be written. Some of these contain insights and wise words but many are 'how to' books. Remember that these are 'maps', somebody else's perception of what is happening/has happened in the past. Not only are many context specific but much information is often left out.

Many an innovation initiative has become de-railed because someone has read the book and failed to appreciate that it is not a step by step guide, a map that covers all eventualities. By all means buy more books and consult widely about the territory that you are entering. Also remember that as long as you have your wits about you, exploring can often be the best way to map out your own territory.

For the same reason, creative techniques should also be properly researched. Some such as visualisation can cause distress if used incorrectly and others can cause anger as well as not having the effects that you were anticipating.

Remember that to explore new territory you need to obtain or create a map especially when passing on knowledge to others. How often has the CEO's speech been misinterpreted because employees do not share the same perception or vision of the company? Never forget that "the map is not the territory".

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