Simon Wardley: Mapping the Future of your Business

Wardley mapping is an open source tool to help you make sense of the world in which you operate and make informed and intelligent strategic decisions about what you can do to thrive in the future.

In short: A Wardley map is a map.

In this talk from our Online Spring Conference in 2021, Simon Wardley walks us through how Wardley mapping helps you to understand where your business is, identify opportunities and threats to its existence, make plans for the future and, gameplay the routes to getting to where you want to be. It is a powerful tool to inform your strategy and monitor your progress.

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Transcript

Simon Wardley

You see says an introduction to maps? Oh, yes. fantastic news, right? First of all, I suppose I’m gonna ask a question. Just wave your hand if you’ve, you’ve done any of my mapping before. No, right? Okay. Superduper capital. Okay, have you? Okay?

So what am I gonna go through?

  • First of all, the origin of the work that I did around mapping started 16 years ago, quite some time ago. Then I’m gonna go through what is a map?
  • Then I’m going to talk about patterns.
  • I’ve got a bit of a magical mystery tour at the end, where we can get into things like meaning or organization or culture or things like digital sovereignty, but or you just might have questions. Of course, we’ve got a session afterwards, which is all questions and answers. And I’m sure we’re use Miro boards and have lots of fun then.

So let’s start with the origin. Maps. Where did it begin?

16 years ago, I was working for this company, it was called for Fotango, online photo service had about 16 different lines of business. One of them was being a photo service, in total across all the businesses must be must be close to 10 million users. And it was doing very well, profit, profitable revenue was rapidly growing. It was great, except I had a big problem. And the big problem was the CEO, the CEO was completely clueless, didn’t have an idea what they were doing. And they were making it up as they went along. And I know this because I was the CEO.

I mean, I used to come up with these wonderful statements of, you know, strategy and things like this. I mean, this is Fotango in 2003. Our strategy is customer focused, we will lead an innovative effort in the market through our use of agile techniques and open source and adopted something called Extreme Programming. And it was written by a friend of mine. I’ve been a fan of it back in 1999 roughly. So this was before the Agile Manifesto came out. And we were heavy users of open source I almost exclusively recruited from the Perl community, we have most of the Perl camp begins working for me.

The problem with this vision statement, though, was I pinched it from another company and just changed a few words.

I was that clueless!

So I used to go around, listening to other CEOs talking about strategy. And I’ve done this many, many years, I used to record common words, or what I call business level abstractions of a healthy strategy or blouse for short. So I would create these lists of blasts, I think this was 2014, common blast, digital business, big data, disruptive, innovative, collaborative, competitive advantage, these just the words, they would use blah, blah, blah. And then I created something called the blog template. So I took all these various statements by companies, and created our strategy is blah, we will lead a blog effort of the market through our use of blah, and blah, to build a blog. And then what I would do is smash the bloggers and the blog templates together, and auto generated random, different strategies, things like this. Our strategy is innovative digital business, we will lead a growth effort of the market through our use of customer focus, competitive advantage disrupt, it’s just total gibberish.

But remember, I was I had no idea when I was desperate, I was worried everybody would, would rumble I was this fake CEO. But I used to send these around. And the last time I did this, I got about 400 responses of three basic types. The first was, this is the exact wording from our business plan. The second was I’ve seen two of these used already. And my my third favourite was are you for hire. So basically, I started to realise I might not be the only person who was making stuff up. A friend of mine by the way, it’s put this all online, if you ever need a strategy, this is strategy as a service, you just type in the URL, and it will randomly generate you based upon nothing whatsoever. I mean, occasionally they update the blog and they add in things like I don’t know AI blockchain. So you’ll see those words appear as well. So our strategy is collaborative. We will lead an open effort at the market through our use of big data and it’s just pure gibberish. If you don’t like it, just press refresh it will automatically create you a new one. You can pretend there’s AI In blockchain and whatever else you want behind it, maybe there’s you pretend there’s a horde of McKinsey consultants tapping away, but it’s, it’s just just gibberish.

So, I ended up in a bookstore, and I was in this bookstore and I was talking to the book seller. And I explained to her that I read every book I could find on strategy, and I was getting nowhere. And so she persuaded me to buy two copies of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, she had asked me had I ever read it? And I said, No. And she said, Well, they’re different translations – buy two different copies. And I’ve got to say, I’m so grateful for that. Fantastic, because it was in the reading of a second copy, but I noticed a pattern.

When Sun Tzu talked about competition, he talked about five factors that mattered.

Have a purpose, a moral imperative, understand your landscape, the environment you’re competing in, then understand the heavens. So the climactic patterns and how the landscape is changing, then you need to orientate yourself around this with doctrine and principles, basically. And then you need to, you know, that’s when you apply that leadership, the gameplay what we’re going to do.

This overlaps with something else I read from John Boyd, US Air Force pilot talks about the OODA loop. So you have the game, your purpose, the first thing you need to do is observe the environment. So this is where like landscape and climactic patterns come into play.

What is your landscape? How is it changing?

You need to orientate yourself around that. So this is where principles and culture and you know, your genetic sort of background come into play, or the genetic background of the organisation. And then you need to decide where you’re going to attack. And then you act. And I was, like, fascinated by this. And at the heart of this two, why’s the why of purpose, your moral imperative to do something like playing game of chess, my way of purpose might be to win the game, and the why of movement.

So how do I decide whether to move this piece or that piece?

Okay, and that depends a lot upon the landscape orientation around the space and the gameplay. So you’re into your leadership. So I had this and I was like, This must have been more gosh, like 2014-15. I just really sort of like this sort of made sense to me.

So I started to look a bit a little bit more, and I started looking into the question of landscape. I really got into military battles. And so one of my favourite is the Battle of Thermopylae. So this is Themystoclese ancient politician, Greek general from the Athenian city states. Greeks were independent city states and had a problem – the Persians were invading. Now there’s about 140 to 170,000 Persians invading. And what they decided to do was block off the street Sparta museum force the Persians along a coastal road into an era past called Papalii, where a small number of troops could defend against a larger forces because they’re a forcing function for change. Now, there were about 4000 Greeks including 300, Spartans, which is where we get the story of the 300 from so I was like fascinating because you could use this to discuss what we’re going to do and learn from this battle.

I thought, well, how do we decide in my business? Now we used something called SWOTs. So I decided to create a SWOT of this battle.

  • So strengths are well trained Spartan army, a high level of motivation not to become a Persian slave.
  • Weaknesses, the Ephors might stop the Spartans turning up, a truckload of Persians are turning up.
  • Opportunities, get rid of the Persians get rid of the Spartans, we’re Athenian, we actually hate the Spartans, so we can win the battle and get rid of them as well. That’s a plus.
  • And the threats the Persians get rid of us. And why added this bit later, the Oracle said, really dodgy film might be produced a few 1000 years later.

So I was looking at the SWOT diagram, and I lined it up against the map, and asked myself What would you use to communicate and determine strategy and battle? Would you use position and movement described on some sort of map? Or would you use some sort of like magic framework, like a SWOT diagram? And I thought, Well, it’s obvious I’m gonna use a map.

But then I looked at what I was doing in business and I went, I’m using SWOTS. So. This got me into asking the question…

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Where are my maps?

Because obviously, I need maps. That’s obviously the thing I’m missing. I hadn’t done an MBA. And so my mapping, by the way, is now taught at places like Harvard, Kennedy LSE, Peking University Moscow Institute of Technology. But anyway, back then, I hadn’t done you know, I had no interaction with business schools, but I assume this is what you learn how to do an MBA you don’t by the way. And so I had to create my own way of mapping, or at least find my maps. So I started looking around in the organisation, we had loads of things called maps, we have mind maps, we had business process maps, we had even things called strategy maps, we had systems map. So I was like, wow, this is really great. So I took one of the systems maps, here it is, it was part of the online photo business. I took one component CRM, customer relationship management, and I simply moved it. And I said, right, how’s that changed the map? And the answer is, it hadn’t.

I thought, well, that’s a bit odd. If I take a geographic map, and I move Australia, and put it next to England, that’s definitely definitely changed the map. So why isn’t it changed the map here? And the reason why it hasn’t changed the map is all of these maps had one thing in common. They weren’t maps, they’re graphs.

So to explain the difference the three diagrams at the top knotting in London Dover, not in London, Dover connected by two rates, and once and to the three diagrams at the top are all graphs, and they’re all identical. Now the three diagrams at the bottom, again, not in London, Dover, not in London, Dover connected by two roads. The three diagrams at the bottom are all maps, and they’re all completely different.

The difference between a graph and a map is that an a map space has meaning. So when you move one of the nodes in a map, it fundamentally changes the context of meaning of the map, which is why maps are good for exploring landscapes. Now, in order for space to have meaning, you need three basic characteristics, you need an anchor such as magnetic north, for geographical maps, you need position of pieces relative to each other. So this is north, south, east or west of that. And you need something called consistency of movement. By the way, if you hear lots of birds in the background, I live in the countryside. So we have huge numbers. So apologies for that. I can’t shoo them away, and I’m not going to anyway.

So you need anchor position and consistency of movement. So if I’m going north and going north if I’m going south and going south. So I thought right, I need to recreate this for a competitive landscape. So being a Brit, I started with a tea shop. I thought, right, what’s my anchors? Well, I’m going to take public who hopefully wants to drink tea, and the business he wants to sell tea. There are other anchors involved. There are regulators and people like that. But let’s start simple. And they have a need one is for a need to sell tea. One is need to hopefully drink tea. But a cup of tea has needs. It needs tea, it needs cup, it needs hot water. And a hot water has needs. It needs cold water, it needs kettle and a kettle has needs it needs power. So what we’ve got is an anchor at the top. And we’ve got position described in a chain of needs. And the further sundeck is away, the less miserable it becomes. So for a public consumer, the cup of tea is very, very public to them. The power to heat the kettle is very distant. Alright, so I’ve got anchor on position. But I also need movement. And it turns out that all of these stocks have capital, all of these notes are actually stocks of capital and all of them evolve. And there’s a common pattern by which they evolve, you start off with the genesis of novel and new items, custom built examples, products and rental services, and then more commodity and utility services. So what I can do is I simply take that chain of needs and position things according to how evolve they are. And now what I’ve got is anchor position and movement described through evolution. And that is a map. And if I if I move any component on this map, it changes the fundamental meaning of what the map is.

So this enables people to, you know, tell me things I missing. So it helps me understand the details of what I’m doing because somebody might come along and say, Oh, your maps great, but you’re missing staff. And somebody might get all staff we want to use robots. Well, we can add that to a map. And then it also enables people to challenge assumptions. So somebody might go why are we using custom built kettles, why aren’t we using standard kettles and somebody might go or it’s brand exclusivity or something like that. And we can also put metrics to it. So each of these nodes or stocks have capital in each of the lines of flows of capital. So we can put value so we can assign, you know, create a P&L from this. And the point about this is it doesn’t matter if you’re from engineering, or you’re from marketing, or you’re from finance, or you’re from the business side, or whatever it happens to be. We have a common language, which we can talk about the space.

I’ll give you an example of use. And we’ll start with the insurance company, because this is quite an old project. So this particular insurance company had they had a bottleneck. They use things like value stream mapping, and all this sort of stuff. They’re not maps their graphs, by the way. And what they wanted to do was improve the process flow. So they would they needed compute order server server comes into goods in modifying mountain racket. Now they had a problem. The problem was this bottleneck. And so in terms of modifying and mounting servers, so they spent six months working on this, all these vendors came in, they came up with the idea of using robotics to do this wonderful business case, return on investment calculations, everything else. I mean, it was great. And so they asked me what I thought. Now, here’s the problem. I can’t say why using robots. And the reason why I can’t do that, is because they’ve already created a story about the use of robots.

And one of the biggest problems we have in organisations is that we keep on telling people that good leaders are great storytellers. And what that means is that when you give your story, if it doesn’t succeed, it’s because you’re not a good leader, because you’re not a great storyteller. And so we’ve made stories highly political, it’s very difficult to challenge a story without challenging the person. So what I did was simply say, could you map it because I can’t challenge your story. Just put it on a map. And there was like, Oh, I don’t see the point of that. But anyway, 15 minutes later, this is the map they gave me. user needs compute, compute order service server, good said, so order server server goods in all commodity, for some reason, you know, this was 2000, goes back 10 years ago, they thought compute was more of a product, and that’s okay. And they went rack mount modify. I simply looked at the map and said, Why do you put racking custom bill? And one of the people say, Well, it’s because we have this company who makes our racks for us. And they’re custom built? Yes. So what are the modifications you’re doing to service? Well, they don’t fit our racks. So we have to take cases off through new holes and new plates. And that’s why you need robotics. Yes. And of course, somebody in the room went Hang on, why aren’t we using standards, standard racks. And this is the most common problem that I see people optimising process flow, when in fact, they need to first deal with evolutionary flow. And these people aren’t daft. They’ve spent six months working on this problem.

The issue is they’re trapped by context. So at some point, in the past, it made sense to use custom built racks. And now they’re just trying to improve that process. And until you take them out of the story, and give them a way of looking at environment, it’s very difficult for people to challenge.

Okay, so I often put it this way, if the user needs a slice of toast, do you buy a toaster for $40? Or do you spend nine months lovingly building a taster? $1,000 from raw materials, which is the Thomas Thwaites toaster project? Well, obviously, you don’t spend $1,000 spend nine months building it. Okay. Right? Well, if the user needs some compute, do you use a compute utility like EC2, or Azur? Do you spend years and millions of dollars levelling and building your own compute environment? Or in private cloud from raw material? It’s amazing how many people went oh, we’re going to build a road. Okay, it’s very common.

So I’ll give you another example. This is HS2 high speed rail, big heavy engineering project.

It’s about £60-70 billion odd. This James Finley, good friend of mine. He was the CIO, he’s now doing interesting stuff with lifeboats, etc. Anyway, they needed to build the entire railway in a virtual world, because it’s cheaper to dig up the virtual world and go oops, we’ve got that wrong, then they got the English countryside. So this is the systems diagram for building he has to in a virtual world. Now the problem James had is how do I manage this? Do I? Which bits do I outsource? Which bits do I use off the shelf products for which bits do I build in house? That simple diagram that graph there are 387 million possible permutations of that question in that single graph? So have you choose or in government what we used to do? was a lot of this we would outsource it all. And then we break it into lots where I would group things together. So that sounds engineering. So we’ll have that as a lot one engineering, that’s one contract. Well, I will group this stuff as user experiences stuff. So that’s another contract. This seems bad coffee, see stuff. That’s how we used to do things. And it used to tear go terribly, terribly wrong a lot of the time. So James sat down, and it was a Sunday afternoon. And I taught him how to map beforehand, he currently mapped it out. And he sent this map to me. And he gave me a phone call this back in 2012. So I tidied up the map a little bit.

He said, how do we manage this? And I said, Well, it’s quite easy, actually. Because I got all agile, Extreme Programming back in 2000, to 2003. And of course, by 2004, we’d like it doesn’t work everywhere. And what we’ve learned is that you need to use multiple methods. So extreme programming was very good on the left hand side, because it was good at reducing the cost of change and changes the norm. Whereas Six Sigma and outsourcing was good on the right hand side, because it was good at reducing deviation. And that’s what you want to do. Whereas lean was good in the middle. Now say Scrum, MVP, all those sorts of artefacts, because it’s focused on learning and reducing waste, which is what you need to do. So you simply apply that, you go write the stuff on the left hand side, we’ll build in house with Agile techniques, stuff in the middle, we’re tend to use off the shelf products that we’re building, we use Lean stuff on the right hand side, we’re outsource to utility providers and use six sigma. And so that’s what they did. They ended up being in front of the Public Accounts Committee being praised for being ahead of schedule, had a budget and way under budget. Fantastic.

So what would have happened if we had done it the normal route? Okay, so let’s take one of those contracts. Let’s take lot one engineering. So let me have a look at lot one engineering, there it is, we’re outsourcing it all. I can tell you before we even started, because we’re going to try and specify this in a contract, that the stuff on the right hand side will be efficiently treated. And the stuff on the less left hand side will always incur excessive change control costs. And the reason for this is we can’t specify. So we try and specify stuff we can’t specify, we’re always going to get massive cost overruns. It’s quite, it’s quite funny. You can sit down with these enormous projects, map it out, overlay the contract structure, and you can literally go yep, that contract, you know, before you’ve signed, it’s not going to work, we’re just going to lose bucketload of money. That one that’s not going to work either bucketload and that one’s okay, that one’s okay, simply by mapping it out. I mean, this sort of stuff we did in UK Government. So I wrote something called the better for less paper with a friend of mine, Liam Maxwell and others, Mark Thompson. And this was for Francis Moore, this is back in 2009 2010. This led to something called spin control and help support the formation of something called GDS, government digital services. And simply by using mapping, I mean, we say one project was 425 million, about 1.5 billion this lifetime, really simple exercises. But this stuff was common.

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All right. But the other thing about what happens with maps is you start to share them, the real value is in sharing maps, not just allowing others to challenge your assumptions. But you can also find duplications and bias. So you get maps from borders, police immigration, you start putting the single dots onto a common map, and you start finding we’re building multiple user registration systems. And sometimes we’re custom building stuff which others think is a commodity, that’s quite common. Now, before you think I’m having a pop at government, the worst example of guilt and government I found of duplication is 118, workflow systems, doing the same thing. We’ve managed to build prisoner registration 118 different ways. That is nothing compared to the private sector. If you want waste and inefficiency, the private sector beats government hands down. I mean, the levels is just astronomical. I’ve got a bank, we’ve managed to build risk management over 1000 times, we stopped counting. At that point, it was just like, wow, I mean, the vast majority that P&L is nothing but waste.

One of the best ways of challenging I mentioned spend control is to introduce a system of spend control. It’s not to take people’s money away from them as in department budgets, it’s to do basically pre mortem challenge and post mortem learning, basically. So pre mortem challenge, you map out the environment before they go off and do it and say, and you challenge what they’re doing. And then after they’ve done it, then you use the same map and update it and we do some post mortem learning, and that’s how we learn patterns. Which brings me to the next section which is patterns.

There are three common patterns that you need to know about.

  • One is climactic patterns. These are basically the rules of the game.
  • There are the economic patterns, there’s about 30 of those. If there’s supply and demand competition going on, of these patterns will occur.
  • Doctrine, these are universally useful patterns that you can apply.

So climatic patterns will happen to you whether you like it or not, unless you can stop competition. Doctrine, you’ve got a choice over but they’re universally useful. So you tend to use them all the time. And there’s about 40 of those. There’s 30 climactic patterns. And there’s about 100 different forms of gameplay.

So these are all context specific patterns, things like open source, great for forcing something to industrialise or encouraging industrialisation. So I’ve mentioned a whole bunch of patents regarding doctrine principles. So these are things like know your users. Focus on user needs. Understand the details. So it’s not just enough to know, you know, who uses the tea shop and the business and what their needs are, you’ve got to understand the details.

Another one is understand what is being considered. So it’s not enough to just know there’s a kettle; you’ve got to know there’s a world of difference between a custom built kettle and a commodity kettle. Another one is to challenge assumptions. That’s a universally useful pattern. So once somebody’s got a map, just don’t just leave it there, ask why are we custom building kettles? Another one is to have a common language. So it doesn’t matter if you’re finance or business or engineering, we can all talk about the same space using a single map. Another one is to use appropriate methods. So agile over here, outsource over here, no such thing is one size, magic fits all methods. Another one is to remove bias and duplication.

Another one is bias towards data. So having a map challenging on it, doing something and then again, learning from it, useful thing to do. Anyway, as I said, there’s about 40, commonly, universally useful patterns. And the ones at the very, very bottom are the ones we’ve gone through. They call them the phase one pattern. So common language challenge assumptions, understanding what is being considered know your users, things like that. Most organisations are hopeless, and really hopeless at this level.

Okay. So there’s another set of patterns called climactic patterns. So these are like the economic patterns. And so if you take a single line, and this is computer circa 2005, user needs an application application built in best coding practice, but on a runtime, but an operating system, built on best architectural practice is built on compute as a product. The first pattern you learn a climactic pattern is that everything evolves, nothing is static. Your map isn’t static, it’s moving. So we knew computers going to a utility. And that brings benefits of efficiency.

The second pattern you learn is the past success breeds inertia. So they’re about 16, different forms, pre existing capital, political capital, all that sort of stuff. So it’s like Blockbuster vs Netflix: first with a website – Blockbuster, first with video ordering online – Blockbuster, first with video streaming – Blockbuster, first to go bankrupt – Blockbuster. So Blockbuster out-innovated everyone, including Netflix. The problem was is they had inertia created by pre existing business models made basically late fees past success.

That’s what that’s what got me next pattern you learn is coevolution. So as things evolve, you see new new practices emerge. So what we had is best architectural practices for computers, a product versus an emerging architectural practice, based upon computers or utility or cloud. So this was circa 2008. And that’s because the underlying component is characteristics change. It goes from the case of computers and product high MTTR high mean time to recovery, to cloud, which was low mean time to recovery. So I mean, by that, you take weeks for a server to turn up, and you move to a world where it was seconds. So suddenly, we can distribute systems design failure, do things like continuous deployment. I mean, there was no point in doing continuous deployment if you’re waiting weeks for the machines to turn up. Anyway, eventually, Andy Patrick gave those new emerging practices a term named a flag, we call it DevOps. Next pattern you learn is that efficiency enables innovation. So as things evolve, they enable higher order systems to appear. And those higher order systems create new sources of value of worth. So we get things like Netflix. Pretty straightforward.

Now the point about this is that by simply taking a line, and seeing how it’s changing by applying those common economic patterns, then we can work out, you know, where we should place our bets. And so that’s exactly what I did with Ubuntu. We I used to run strategy for a company called Canonical, they provide something called Ubuntu. This is what we did in 2008, we were 2 -3%, the operating system market against Microsoft and Red Hat, who had all the money and all the share, we simply use the maps to work out where to target. And we targeted and took us 18 months to half a million. And we went from being two to 3% to 70% of all cloud, if you were around in cloud space, you might have remember, it was Microsoft Red Hat, and then suddenly, it was a boon to everywhere. That was us. You were mapped. That was me, I was running strategy.

Of course, things don’t stand still. The emerging practices evolve, got a name DevOps, the best architectural practice for computers as a product got a new name, legacy, the runtime then evolved runtimes, gone from lamp.net to lambda.

And so we’re getting the same patterns of new emerging practices, new needs being created, or fairly basic stuff. And the point about this is that strategy is in or it is iterative. So what you would do in 2010, is fundamentally different to what you would now do in 2021.

So for example, 2021, things like DevOps cloud, that’s just building the new legacy. So if you’re going to start off on our we’re going to, we’re going to commit to cloud and introduce DevOps into our organisation, it will take you seven years to get that done. But at Netflix, seven years, by the time you finish, you built the new legacy, what so what was the point? I mean, you know, great for 2010. But today, you’d attack the service space. So you’d look at companies like iRobot. So IRobot, they have about 10 – 15 million robots out there, they’re they’re Roomba, they launched the Hoover’s the entire thing runs with 100, lambda functions, 30 AWS services, there’s zero, EC2 instances, zero containers, certainly no data centres or anything like any of that nonsense. It’s all gone. And the number of people how many people do you need to maintain support 10 to 15 million robots? About six. Okay, it’s a completely different world. Great. So So we’ve done the sort of doctrine patterns and the climactic patterns which we use for anticipation.

There’s another example. These are the gameplay, I won’t go through those 100 of those. So just quickly mentioned a few. Now, I mentioned one. My favourite one is the IRC pen, it’s very simple. You take a product, you turn it into a utility, and you make it available publicly to others. So you can’t do this, if it’s in Genesis or custom bill, because it’s not stable enough, I hear people say we’re going to API and our stuff. Well, if it’s in custom built, or early product, it’s not developed enough. So it’s a really bad time to do it. Because you’re just slow down innovation. What you do is you attack it, when it’s sort of late product, turn it into a utility, expose it like compute. And then what happens is everybody hopefully, fingers crossed build on top, so you get componentisation effects. And that’s great. As in, people use it to build new things on top. And so they might go and do kit and internet, they might go and do. I don’t know, big data, stuff on that. The thing is, they’re consuming your service. So you can’t look at their data, their data is their data, but you have to build them. And in order to build them, you have to see how much they’re consuming of your service. And that’s the metadata. And that tells you what’s becoming successful, so that you can mine the entire ecosystem to spot new patterns, would you commoditise new components services, I don’t know, say Elastic MapReduce, and then everybody cheers, because they’ve got this new service, they can build things more quickly. componentisation effects, except for the people you’ve just harvested from and they’ve seen you beat my business model. And isn’t it terrible, and everybody else cheers because progress means much more quickly, they can build new things. So what you’re doing is you’re getting everybody else to innovate for you. You’re mining, the metadata does spot future patterns, and then your commoditising to Component Services. And so your apparent rate of innovation, customer focus, and efficiency all now simiultaneously increase with the size of your ecosystem. So the bigger your ecosystem gets, the more innovative you appear. Because everybody is your free research lab, the more customer focused you are, because you’re mining metadata, to give people what they really need. And you’re more efficient economies of scale. And so it’s a fantastic panel. So I write about this in 2005.

You know, Amazon, I think there’s great job of doing this compute machine learning they they drive up the right hand. So I know people say, All right, it’s terrible. They have as they are forcing progression. And the problem is China government does exactly the same gameplay. So I know people go and say, Oh, well, we need to break up Amazon or whatever nonsense they come up with. Well, that’s great. But if China doesn’t do that, to people like Ali Baba, and so forth, all you’re basically saying is, we want to be behind the future further behind. I mean, it gets you nowhere, right? So you, what you have to do is you have to adapt and learn how to play the game properly. So you know, they do a great job of doing this. There’s a wonderful book called reaching clown velocity, March, where it’s Jonathan Allen, Thomas blood. Well worth reading, you’ll find there’s about 17 pages of mapping in there, including the whole aarC system. This is I think AWS is second ever book, Atlas, Amazon Web Services there. And they’ve done some really good books recently, as in their own books.

Okay, couple of thinks about mapping.

  • All maps are imperfect representations of a space. So if you wanted to create a perfect map of France, it would have to be one to one scale, which means it would be the size of France, which means it would be France. Okay. So in order to be useful, it’s got to be imperfect.
  • Secondly, underneath maps and models. So in this case, the model of change is evolution. And all models are wrong.

So the first things you need to know about a map is they’re all imperfect.

And they’re all wrong. But that’s okay. Because they also turn out to be useful. I mean, we’ve used maps in government to say billions. I mean, that’s, that’s I like the things like this, Jackie Taylor, Dr. Jackie Taylor are using maps in terms of smart cities and other bits and pieces. There’s some great stuff going on there. But the ones I like, I think like this, we use maps, oh, James Finley use maps to improve communication processes within lifeboats and that saves lives. I mean, they got it down to about 40 minutes to 18 seconds for call out time. So when people fall in the Thames, they’re actually bringing people out alive rather than dead. And that’s just incredible. So I love that sort of stuff.

But mapping also gets used in things like combating illegal fishing, and the slavery trade as well. So I, you know, really good stuff. I mean, I have friends at the UN, Matt from reducing global poverty all the way down to different statistics organizations, and all this sort of stuff. So I love the stuff where it’s more doing good. A lot gets done with venture capital firms with mapping. This is who backer is an Indian VC firm startup accelerator. They’ve got about 100. Startups now all using mapping. And they’ve got to think about I was talking to them recently about 65%, roughly, a cashflow positive within two years. It’s just incredible rates that they’ve got. And there’s lots of books out there. There’s the UN book on IT strategy, which is just full of maps. Amazon’s book, there’s a science fiction book by a wonderful chap called Tao Clyde. It’s the new Ready Player One. So this is all described as being turned into a film, science fiction book. But in order to write the science fiction book, he used maps to map the future, and then use the maps to create the book. It’s a bit like JR Tolkein. My one of my favorite quotes for Lord of the Rings, was he said, he fortunately, wisely, sorry, started with a map. He actually produced the map before he actually produced the book. So in this case, it was a technology map, which was used to write the book, and it’s been turned into a film. A lot of my stuff is nation state competition. So China, USA, all this sort of stuff.

But anyway, we also have something called Map camp, where 1000s were last time, there’s 1400 mappers from around the world. Turned up, it’s all virtual. So if you map camp.co.uk, you’ll find it on there. We’ve got great speakers from all over the place coming along. I suppose that gets me to the X with the Magical Mystery Tour. I see I’ve got about 18 minutes left. So I could do meaning organization or we can get into Culture and Sovereignty or you may have some burn Any questions you want to ask now? Anybody want to shout out? Continue more? I’m overloaded. Oh, can I ask questions? And by the way, I’m at home. So you’re gonna hear birds, you’re gonna hear banging people ringing on the door?

Mark Littlewood 

I have one very brief question, which is I’m seeing a lot of people say continue. And that’s kind of in the boat I’m in. Okay, real quick, what is a good resource for if we aren’t able to get to organization and we’re unable to get to meaning we go to culture, what’s a good resource for us to independently learn more about this and kind of keep that going off the call.

Simon Wardley

So it’s all creative commons share, like I made a crazy common share, like backing all 2005, you’ll find there’s something called lists dot Wardley maps.com. It’s an awesome list created by the community which has links all over the place. There’s lots of mappers out there teaching people how to map they’ve got slack groups and everything else. I’ve written about 600 pages of book, it’s all Creative Commons medium.com, forward slash Wardley maps, you can find that there. There’s lots of presentations and other things. People are organizing. There’s meetups that go in Australia, in the US, there’s been map camps in the US. So there’s an entire community out there. Does that answer your question?

Mark Littlewood

That does. Thank you.

Simon Wardley

Pleasure. All right. So how long have we got 60 minutes meaning? Let’s, let’s start, see how far we get.

So I said about user application, best coding practices, runtime operating system, best architectural practice, compute, and what happened is you apply one pan, things will evolve, and you know another pattern, a climactic pattern, which is coevolution. as things evolve, characteristics change, you’ll get a new emerging practice. Okay, so one of the things about this is the best architectural practice and the emerging architectural practice had a common meaning, as in architectural practice. Whenever you get this coevolution of practice, they have a common meaning.

So DevOps and IT both have a common meaning. But what we’re actually talking about are two different competencies linked to a material change in the underlying technology. So one competence is best for computers or product. And one competence and DevOps is now probably good heading towards best is best for computers or utility. Now it can also go the other way, in terms of you have a meaning, such as I didn’t know a thing like teleportation or compute, or I don’t know money, it evolves. So you start off with computers. And I tell him, Well, well, we haven’t done teleportation too, well would do compute computers, Genesis 1940s, roughly, then you get computers, products and computers, utilities. And so you have three different material instances. And so what’s happened is certain practices have evolved to be competent for a particular material incident. This is why Agile has evolved to become sort of good practice for building something which is relatively novel and new. At the bottom. Those are labels Genesis custom product commodity really should say stage 123, and four, for evolution, but that’s meaningless. But you can use different labels, there’s novel emerging good and best you can replace it with that when talking about practice. So Agile is probably good heading towards best practice for building new things. And you’ve got Lean and Six Sigma have evolved to be good at different stages as well. Unfortunately, they all have a common meaning, which is project management. So we have this wonderful world where we have a common meaning. So compute or say teleportation teleportation Genesis. Teleportation is a product teleportation is utility, three different material instances, but we’ll call it teleportation. And we’ve got project management, which we call common meaning even though it’s three completely different evolving competencies, and we keep on trying to find well, what’s the right project management for this thing? It depends. It depends on how evolve the thing is. Because if it’s novel, you’d use agile if it’s more commodity use six sigma. But we don’t like that we love our you know,

Ashley’s law requisite variety we try and pretend the reality is simple rather than cope with the complexity. So so we love our simple methods. So we keep on building coats, things like you know, agile works everywhere, or Six Sigma works everywhere or safe works everywhere or the one size fits all. It’s just a cult. That’s all it’s not possible to So I’d love the latest ones in the Agile because these these all grand all singing, all dancing, agile methods work everywhere. And then when they don’t, because they can’t, because they change your characteristics fundamentally different. And people say, Well, you use the wrong bits of the Agile method. In which case I go well, so it’s process over people not people over process then is it because that’s like the opposite of what Agile actually is? Most of this stuff has become a cult, like, you just remember use appropriate methods.

Alright, organization.

So this is Fotango 2003 2004, I made every mistake, every single one. So in 2002, I organized like this CIA, CFO, CBO different silos. And we used to get lots of fights between the silos. So I came up with this magic idea that what I would do is have little teams and product owners, this was 2003, I thought, This is great. This is gonna be marvelous. And all that happens is I got more fights. And so then I came up with this idea, the reason why I’m getting more fights is because within any one of these things, I have like development, building new stuff, and core keeping the rug. So what I need to do is split the organization’s into Dev and core, whether it was it finance, or whatever it was. And that was about 2004. And that just generated all out warfare. This was bimodal, about eight years before Gartner came up with a term, and it’s gibberish. Okay, all out warfare. And the reason for this was pretty simple. If I map it, I had maps by 2005. So I could see what was going wrong. I had the core components and Dev would build new stuff. And as it evolve, Dev would turn up and say, You look after this, and the core would go where’s the documentation dev would go? Well, we don’t do documentation, they get into a big fight. And then dev would go and build new things on top of these unstable things. So nothing was involving in my organization.

And all that was happening was I was getting increasing instability and open warfare between the two groups, because I had this missing middle.

So what I realised is I needed three groups,

I needed pioneers to build, run and operate the novel and new settlers to find the common patterns and turn those into more products, etc, and build run and operate that space. And I town planners to take those products and industrialised components.

So I need to mimic evolutionary flow in a single organisation. I’ve pinched those ideas, basically from Accidental Empires, which was a wonderful book, written by Robert X. Cringely, that’s a pseudonym, back in 1993. So I reorganised chief pioneer chief settler, Chief town planner, by attitudes, some people like the sort of chaotic fading world of the pioneers, some people are great at the industrialised empires of scale of the town planners. And then I would run aptitudes across. So finance was a group across within finance, it’s a common skill set. But there are pioneers, settlers, town planners within that. And then I would organise my cells with a common attitude. And to replicate evolution, I introduced the system of theft. So what would happen is the pioneers would build a brand and operate the novel and new and the settlers would look at what they’re doing. And at some point saying, We’re stealing that from you. We’re turning that into a product and the pioneers we go, oh, no, we want to keep it inertia, inertia, but they would be forced to move on. And the town planners will be looking at what the settlers are doing and say that should be a component utility like service and was steal that from you. And so we introduced a system of theft into the single organisation. Now, to do this properly, you need maps, because you need to understand the landscape break down into small teams apply the right attitude, if you want to read more about this. Our intelligence services GCHQ has a wonderful document called boiling frogs, which will take you through that more in more detail. All right, it’s all help yourself. Use a slightly different terms, but you’ll see my work.

Here’s the problem, though, is people often look at that and go, oh, we need to reorganise. And I have to say don’t. And the reason why is that reorganisation is the easy thing to die for. It’s like being on a Titanic, great big hole in the boat and somebody says if we move the deck chairs, everything will be great. No, it won’t fix the whole. And the whole is is that doctrine that I talked about?

So I mentioned there’s like 40 Odd doctrine in here. Just to give you an example. This is a big web based giant. Blue is good. They’re pretty good at most things. Okay. And that’s the sort of organisation you can mess around with Pioneer settler town planner and this is is a bank oranges warning, okay, they are rubbish at all. Now they survive because they’re competing against other organisations who also look like this. They’re all hopeless. And then we talk about survival of the fittest is survival at the least incompetent most of the time. I mean, it’s okay to be rubbish, as long as everybody else is rubbish. It’s like running away from the bear in the woods. You know, if everybody’s wearing concrete shoes, no one’s gaining advantage, that sort of thing. Right? Now, it’s called the Red Queen, for Professor van Valen. So this is the thing you need to fix First, don’t mess around with all structure, leave it alone. I know execs like to go full stretch, because it’s a nice sounding thing to do. Which point normally somebody says to me, it’s all about culture. And it’s just like this where things get depressing. And I got seven minutes left, I’ll do a little bit of culture. Right? Here’s the problem with culture. Kroeber, despite a century of efforts to define culture, there is no agreement amongst anthropologists. So anthropologists are the experts on culture, and they can’t agree what culture is. And they’ve spent 100 years doing this. And it’s not because they’re daft. Okay. So I love it when people say it’s all about culture, because they say what do you mean by that? And they go, Oh, anyway, so if I look at a map, and I talked about principles, okay, principles are very different from values, which are beliefs. So I said, principle use appropriate methods.

But on that single map, we’ve also got two beliefs.

  • One is the belief of people over process, which is the Agile world.
  • One is a belief and process over people, which is the Six Sigma world.

Now you can have polar opposite beliefs happily coexist in the same environment. If you understand their appropriate context, some polar opposite beliefs can’t exist. I believe in God, not believe in God or whatever, et cetera, if you’re a religious organisation, but some can happily coexist. Alright. So what’s the problem with culture? Because we got values a beliefs, we got principles? Well, the problem is that Margaret Mead – one of the greatest anthropologists that has ever been – language is a discipline of cultural behaviour. And what does that mean? It means language is part of culture. And so you can’t model it in language. But this is the catch. It’s girdles Incompleteness Theorem. So how do you actually model? Or how do you describe culture if you can’t use language because it’s part of it? Well, I said, you know, the axis of the bottom map, are they’re just labels, we can use other labels, they all share the same common characteristics. So I often use when looking at ethical values, concept emerging, convergent, accepted. So if I put that on the bottom, and here’s a map from a collective universal basic income paid holiday unionisation, links to anti discrimination laws, workers rights, civil rights, Martin Luther King talked about the twin pillars of democracy, workers rights can Knights of Labor Movement of the US comes from the abolition of slavery, underneath this are concepts of reciprocity and fairness. So you can map out legal structures and ethical values in a society. Now, you’ve got a collective. And we’d like to succeed at collectives. And that collective has many values. So I just compressed that entire map of values into a pipeline. And that’s what the squares mean, it means there are many different forms. And if we start there, we can expand it out. And we can basically map culture, or a representation of culture with things like enablement, systems, doctrine, gameplay, behaviour, concepts of safety, etc.

Now, it’s not singular.

We belong to many cultures, you can’t just copy values and expect your organization to look like another organization, oh, we just copy their values would be like them. No, there are many other things involved. There are feedback loops. So timing is important. But you can adopt things you can adopt things like principles doctrine, okay. And so this then brings me into sovereignty. The reason why is when we talk about physical sovereignty, what we use maps, and we go, here’s a map, here’s our border, and within our border, is our collective, our behaviors and our values. And those collective behavior values exist in this map of culture, and then linked to the landscape. You’re actually the commercial landscape, your opera, you’re operating it. So what does that mean? Well, I’ll go Back to the China example. I said I do nation state competition. So this is the automotive industry rolled forward. And that was just looking gameplay. But basically, a lot of the stuff in the auto automotive industry is becoming commodity like. So user just wants to get from A to B, increasingly self driving cars, it’s going to start disappearing. But the other thing people want is status. So this is what we wrote about this government about six years ago. This is what a car manufacturer is completing things like route management, introduction of digital subscription models. And sure enough, 2018, BMW started talking about digital subscription models in cars. And what that means is you won’t own a car in the future, but you get in the car, and the experience you get depends on if you’re a platinum member or not. More importantly, route management. As your self driving car goes along the road, other lower subscription members were cars move out the way we’ve just embedded inequality to the transportation system. Not a great idea, particularly if we have a flood, because the poor people don’t get out the rich people do and the next day, we’ve got pitchforks.

The point about this is that was a landscape of the economic patents to do with the automotive industry. And those users belong to a collective, those collective has values. Those values are embedded in the simulation models, which has been embedded in the agents, which is why we have the whole Beijing Washington, AI ethics debate. It’s the trolley problem. car comes along, do you care for one person depends on which society, your Confucian society, tough luck for the one person, if you’re near liberal, and neoliberal type society, if the one person is very wealthy, and the four people are unemployed, tough luck for the four people. And you know, don’t put it beyond people to do that sort of stuff. But the point about this, oops, is when we talk about digital sovereignty, it’s the same thing, our collective, our behaviours, our values, where on the borders that we want, in society on our maps. Joke is the course is that most of the conversation has no maps at all. It’s just a whole bunch of people giving a good old story about oh, data’s really important, and we’re gonna have ethics in AI. That’s really important. Yeah. Why? Where’s your map? Don’t have one. Anyway, at that point, I’ve hit the time on the nose. I’ll shut up. Let you go.

Mark Littlewood

It’s like a gateway drug. Simon. Thank you so so much.


Simon Wardley

Creator, Wardley Mapping

Simon is a former CEO, advisor of startups (all now acquired by US Giants), a fellow of Open Europe and the inventor of Wardley Mapping.

A geneticist with a love of mathematics and a fascination in economics, Simon has always found himself dealing with complex systems, whether behavioural patterns, environmental risks, developing novel computer systems – or managing companies. He’s a passionate advocate and researcher in the fields of open source, commoditization, innovation, organizational structure and cybernetics.


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