Net-Map training: Learn to map your career or torture networks…

drawing informal linksThe most interesting aspect of teaching Net-Map is that our participants bring their own cases to map, so that they can learn how to apply the method to their own problems. And I have had participants mapping torture networks in a South East Asian country (to improve the effectiveness of an anti-torture campaign) and I have seen many different versions of: “Who will influence that I achieve my career goals?” or, even more personal: “Who will influence that I am happy more often and unhappy less often?”. If you join us for our November 15th-16th training, it’s up to you: What are the burning, confusing, exciting and/or painful issues that you want to clarify, where you want to become more strategic and understand the major bottlenecks and opportunities? And yes, in the process you will learn all the nuts and bolts of the method and become a member of our growing community of practice. A few spots are still available. The training will be held at a beautiful event space in the Eastern Market area of Washington, DC. All the details are here and you can sign up here.

Improve your Net-Mapping in 2 minutes

By reviewing Net-Maps that my colleagues share with me I am picking up on all kinds of typical misunderstandings. Many are easy to fix once you know what they are… Here I would like to share two that you better avoid in order to have clear and specific maps: branches and boxes.

No Branches please

no branches

Some participants intend to make things easier and reduce the mess on the map by drawing links that have branches. However, while it looks like it makes things easier; it actually leads to confusion and less clarity as to who is linked to whom. Please insist that each arrow can only link two actor cards.

No Boxes please

no boxes

This is another attempt to make the picture less messy and save time. Participants put actors in boxes and instead of linking individual actors, they link boxes, put influence towers on boxes, put plus and minus signs on boxes. In most cases this leads to a picture that is incorrect. Because what it means is: Every actor in box 1 is linked to every actor in box 2, which is rarely the case. By putting the actors in boxes, participants paint a generic picture that will not help them develop concrete strategies in how to deal with specific actors.

If they insist that there is a group of actors (e.g. NGOs) who, for the question at hand, act as one, with the same links, goals and influence, give them the option of grouping these actors by writing one actor card that reads “NGOs”. But, in general, only do that with marginal actors, not with central ones.

Help participants to avoid drawing generic maps that will not solve their specific problems.

The gift of doubt

Albert O. Hirschman

When reviewing my colleagues’ experience in improving the water and sewerage system in Baghdad, using the Outcome Mapping method, I realized one thing: The really big learnings, changes, breakthroughs happened when something went wrong, when people made mistakes, not when everyone was doing things perfectly. For example only the bad reactions of the public to initial newspaper articles made the team understand that they had to listen more than preach. If the initial communication had been o.k. – though not great – and no one would have even noticed or complained, there would have been little learning.

Today I read an inspiring article which shows me that aparently I am not the first to see this – the literary economist (who prefered to quote Kafka to doing math) Albert O. Hirschman made a science out of researching this. His biography is out, and this New Yorker article gives you a first flavor:

“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”

“Developing countries required more than capital. They needed practice in making difficult economic decisions. Economic progress was the product of successful habits—and there is no better teacher, Hirschman felt, than a little adversity. He would rather encourage settlers and entrepreneurs at the grass-roots level—and make them learn how to cope with those impediments themselves—than run the risk that aid might infantilize its recipient.”