Visual learning and storytelling have existed longer than spoken languages have been in existence, from when cavemen painted stick figures on cave walls, people have used the visual versions of storytelling to transcend barriers and work to bring people into the same context for the understanding of what is being presented.
During the early 2010s, I was introduced to the concept of knowledge mapping, an effort to organize various clusters of knowledge or capabilities within groups or organizations to help streamline efforts to spread that knowledge. Out of those that were working on such problems came Open Knowledge Maps, primarily focused on organizing the world’s scientific expertise into a visual matrix of who had the best perspective on a given topic.
This effort fascinated me, and that we could find ways to visually organize such massive amounts of complex data into a simplified visual construct has pushed me to really dive into the subject.
What is Story Mapping?
Story mapping is a pattern. It’s what sensible people do to make sense of a whole product or whole feature. It’s what they do to break down large stories into smaller ones.(Patton, Jeff. User Story Mapping. O’Reilly Media. Kindle Edition. )
While story mapping has been skillfully applied to the agile methodology employed in the software development and management space, something that I am very grateful for. I also started to notice how much power was being left at the table in regard to other parts of the process in getting team members aligned in the same vision for what needed to be developed. This put me on the path to working out how we could better communicate the very complex process of how systems function and the evolution of the design process for how we modify those same systems over an extended period of time.
The challenges that are experienced seem to continually extend from the fact that we have a static picture into the state of any given project at one time, without providing the continuum of the decisions that came before and why certain paths were chosen and others discarded and the vision of where we want to take those projects to their end state, as much as we can reasonably forecast anyways.
What can be done about this?
Part of the reason that I am researching this particular direction is that I feel it is not limited to just one field and can be applied to many other disciplines. This is the reason for starting up the Story Map Project, We will collect and spread our explorations into this topic and hopefully give some inspiration to the next generation of knowledge seekers as we proceed forward.
Why is it important?
Finding a shared understanding of what needs to be accomplished is the cornerstone of any collaborative effort, getting past every assumption and known and unknown bias to strive to complete a goal or objective is what makes a group the most effective. Human endeavors have been amazing to behold when a group gets on the same wavelength to accomplish something without the political drama that usually arises between powerful personalities.
If you could do one thing and you had a group of fellow dreamers that had your passion and dedication to delivering against the same goal, it would only be a matter of time before when it would be accomplished. That is what we are striving to deliver, a framework that can be leveraged by any group to deliver the goals that they set for themselves.
Why would people want to use this technique in their work or life?
Having a system that would help to map out complex interactions that would lead you to make more informed choices and address unseen challenges sounds amazing, but also a lot of work. Another key tenet of any productivity practice is that engaging in an action of any sort should be frictionless in its execution if the proper context, energy, and focus have already been applied to that given task. You have taken the brainpower necessary to make those decisions at the moment out of the equation and it is more of you following a predefined set of steps to accomplish the tasks ahead of you.
Part of doing that effectively is the ability to anticipate and visualize all of the different tasks that you need to accomplish to mark that item off your list. If we are able to adequately communicate our framework to others, that should be less of a challenge, if we are able to make it as minimally intrusive to their day-to-day routines it will be incredibly effective.
Stay tuned to more as we explore this topic further, and anticipate the launch of the dedicated site for theStoryMapProject.com!
Interested in more details about Productivity Practices? Check out more of our productivity series!