Don’t lead with the label

Hi there! I asked for your questions about Wardley Mapping, and you sure answered!

First up, Joel Eden asks:

As a consultant in the areas of design research, design strategy, experience design, lean product management, etc, I already have so many methods that I use with clients and it can feel like we are asking them to start over with different thinking each time we introduce a new method to them. For example, I use scenarios (text, storyboards), experience mapping / blueprinting / emotional story arcs, etc.

Do you have any advice on how to incorporate Wardley mapping with these other kinds of methods and artifacts in a way that doesn’t feel like starting completely over, so a way to integrate into this existing work that flows well?

I love this question, because it’s a great excuse to share a lesson I learned through experiences of repeated failure. (The best kind of lesson!)

Don’t lead with the label.

A label is what’s on the tin.

It’s the brand name. Wardley Mapping. Team Topologies. Cynefin. Eventstorming. Whatever.

An unestablished brand does zip zero zilch nada for the credibility of the thing it’s attached to. The Business Model Canvas is well established with name recognition. Same for Jobs to be Done, Kanban, and Agile. But Wardley Mapping is in that weird spot where it’s not ubiquitous enough to be taken seriously on name alone.

How do you evaluate something when the brand tells you nothing?

For physical products, it’s sort of easy. You can inspect the product, evaluate its design and construction, and even test it out to determine whether it’s any good.

The quality and usefulness of methods cannot be evaluated so easily.

Methods require investment to try — in knowing, in doing, and more — and if you don’t get results, there will always be some die-hard fan or thoughtleader ready to tell you that you didn’t do it right or try hard enough.

Needless to say, sharing new methods with an audience already on its guard is an uphill battle, even if the thing is genuinely useful.

So you say, “Hey have you heard of Wardley Mapping?” And either distrust or disinterest takes center stage. If you push on regardless, then eyes glaze over and they wish they could be elsewhere.

The label is what triggers the disconnect. It’s the thing that says, “Hey I’m about to rope you into a big investment you aren’t really wanting to make into something that probably won’t actually help.”

So eventually I just learned to avoid the trigger. And that led me to something obvious.

Use the tools instead.

Every method has a set of tools —situational implements that provide some kind of value on their own.

Wardley Mapping has lots of these little high-value tools littered throughout the climate, doctrine, leadership tables and elsewhere in the book:

  • users and needs
  • value chains
  • evolution
  • build, buy, outsource
  • use appropriate methods
  • attitudes (PST, or as my co-author and I have been saying, IAO: Invention / Advancement / Optimization)
  • fast, inexpensive, restrained, elegant (FIRE)
  • and many others…

While you can’t evaluate full methods up-front easily, you can try out their tools and see if they help. So, focus on value by picking a tool that will aid in the situation and then just go do it with the other person.

Would evolution be helpful here? Use it as a tool!

“Evolution says that everything starts out rare and uncertain, and over time gradually becomes more common and more well-understood. Where does our work fit along that spectrum?”

What about a simple list of users and needs? Use it as a tool!

“Who is this meant to serve again? And what are they getting?”

The tools have roots into deeper parts of the method. And if the other person gets value from those tools? Then share the label.*

“It’s from a thing called Wardley Mapping! Here’s where to learn more…”

Value first, label second.

So Joel, that’s my suggestion. Work the smaller tools that Wardley Mapping offers into the stuff you’re already doing. Don’t make it a big deal, and then they won’t feel like they’re starting over. If it’s valuable, and they want more, then tell them where to go to get more.

For me, this is a variation on a theme I’ve been exploring for the last few years. You might enjoy this related post: Nobody cares about your precious framework

And if you are curious to see me blurt out the first version of this post while hanging out in my Honda and wearing a Perry the Platypus hat, here you go:

Special thanks to Joel Eden, and to all those who sent in your lovely questions! I’ll keep working through ’em. And if you’d like to submit a question of your own, you can do so here.

Addendum: Just a reminder that Wardley Mapping is licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0. That means you can share and adapt it for any purpose, as long as you give appropriate credit to Simon Wardley, provide a link to the license, and indicate if any changes were made. Also, if you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. My advice in this post is NOT to violate the terms of the license but rather to be more tactful about how we introduce methods like Wardley Mapping to others!

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