Thursday, October 06, 2022

What is Insight Mapping?

 Insight mapping is the title of this blog.  Why?  What does it really mean?

First, let me clarify that this blog, which started in 2003, was not always named "insight mapping".  It's been called insight mapping since around 2017 I believe.  I had been working on variations of concept maps which we called either knowledge maps or conversation maps.  These were visual representations of Pause and Learn conversations held for NASA teams.  The Pause and Learn is the NASA equivalent to an After-Action-Review in many ways, but the process of mapping these conversations was rather unique to the Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer at the Goddard Space Flight Center.  

I learned the approach from the CKO there, Dr. Ed Rogers.  Then I evolved the approach by turning collections of individual conversation maps into a web of maps and therefore, a collection of insights.  The conversation approach itself wasn't changed and the first step of the documentation of insights in maps wasn't changed, but the way maps were constructed to be more easily aggregated into a web of map was new.  

At the time, I struggled to stick to a single name for the maps.  They were based on the idea of concept mapping, but reflected the flow of conversation rather than concepts.  They key elements were the takeaways of the Pause and Learn session, embedded in all the relevant contextual information. The key takeaways were a mix of lessons, recommendations, and insights.  In truth, most takeaways, which were visually indicated on the map, were important insights but did not readily lend themselves to being captured as lessons or recommendations.

It is only when I left NASA and worked as a consultant for a while, having more time to work on this blog, that I called it Insight Mapping and decided to rename the blog after it.  The insight maps included in the map section are not NASA insight maps, they are little illustrations of individual maps. 

The value, however, was in having a large collection of maps and therefore a large collection of insights which were tagged based on an evolving taxonomy. Each emerging key topic would become its own map, gathering the [insert a topic] insights across 100s of maps. Thanks to a maze of hyperlinks embedded in the text of the individual insights, it was easy to maintain quick access to the context for an insight in the original conversation/insight map.  

Therefore, while the individual maps provided contextualized insights, the topic map provided insight into a topic by gathering all related insights into a single map.  

Conceptually, I still think this was very interesting.  In practice, the technology and level of effort involved in constructing the maps was just not sustainable and the skills were not easily transferable.  I suspect this could be revived with a different technological solution.  The concept of insight mapping and aggregating insights to generate valuable "insight" remains valid.

I was reminded of all this while listening to the Insight Management Academy (IMA) podcast: Transforming Insight. I just started the series.  The first podcast provides a useful definition of "insights" and "insight" .  Insight is the accumulated understanding built from many insights.  It's the bigger picture that emerges by connecting the dots, making the connections across hundreds or thousands of insights.  Individual insight maps highlight insights within the context in which they emerge.  Topic maps aggregate individual insights and make it possible to get "insight" into a topic.

No comments: