There’s nothing wrong with you. Wardley Mapping is just hard.

Welcome back to another entry in our Wardley Mapping Advice series.

Got a Wardley Mapping question? Send it in here!

Audrey M. asks:

I’m not sure how i didn’t realize that you were also involved with Pip Decks. Sadly, I find myself in the same boat with the Pip Decks and the Wardley Maps.
Intellectually, both seem very powerful and something that I would benefit from. In practice, both leave me staring at the materials (Decks and Book) feeling like an idiot, confused as to why I can’t seem to utilize them.
Hoping for a lightbulb moment – which is why i appreciate your newsletter.

Thank you for writing in, Audrey! Any body of knowledge, big or small, book or card deck, will have a gap to jump over to put it into practice.

Here’s my annoying answer: The antidote is experience, by which I mean going out and getting new experiences where you get practice with that book (or deck) knowledge.

Make that the goal: “How can I get more experiences with this?”

A few ideas:

  • Convince one friend or colleague to try it out with you. (The buddy system is how I survived my entry into Wardley Mapping 8 or so years ago.)
  • Search for an online meetup to join (here’s one).
  • Jump into a public discussion area, like the Map Camp Slack or the Pip Decks community Slack (I hang out in the #strategy-tactics channel), and then ask questions relentlessly until someone responds.
  • Search on social media for people talking about Wardley Mapping (hashtags like #WardleyMaps or #WardleyMapping might help). Then DM a few of them and convince them to jump on a call. (My general rule for this is, “DM 10 people to get 1 willing participant.”)
  • Or honestly you can just email me anytime you get stuck (just hit reply to this message), and I’ll do my best to help (that goes for everyone).

Given all that, I worry that it’ll come across as me saying “just try harder.”

(Like, “Gee, thanks, Ben. I’ll just ‘go have experiences,’ lol.” 🙄)

I don’t want “try harder” to be the answer.

So I’ll admit some things.

For instance, I’ll admit that I don’t have better answers than getting new experiences (yet).

I’ll admit that the gap between knowledge and practice for Wardley Mapping is pretty huge, and there’s not a ton of clarity about how to reliably traverse it. You just muddle through and hopefully make it to the other side.

I’ll admit that it’s not a friendly or inviting experience.

I’ll admit that I don’t feel good about it.

So, I also need to say this to you:

You’re not an idiot, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

You opened by sharing that you felt like an idiot.

You’re not an idiot.

Wardley Mapping is extremely useful.

It’s also difficult and unintuitive.

Sometimes that unintuitiveness is for good reason. Often, it’s not.

Unintuitiveness makes us think. It’s slow, clumsy, and full of friction. Sometimes that’s appropriate, like when you’re deciding something important.

Too much of Wardley Mapping, however, requires you to spend your brainpower on things that don’t really matter.

For example, interpreting complicated graphics, parsing dense tables of information, and making sense of all the jargon.

a person with a frightened expression peering through their fingers and speaking about a complicated diagram from wardley mapping

A purist would say that it’s your rite of passage into the land of Wardley, but that sounds silly to me (like a self-administered hazing).

Instead, we could just make it better. And I think we should, but it takes work and time.

I’ve certainly tried with LWM, with courses and coaching, and with YouTube videos. And there are others out there, like WardleyPedia, and the Awesome List.

But we’ve got a ways to go.

While I do try to be dispassionate when I consider whether Wardley Mapping will survive and grow over the years, I will say this:

If it remains unintuitive in the wrong places, then too few people will figure out how to use it, and it’ll fizzle out.

The phrase “relegated to obscurity” comes to mind.

I think that’d be a shame, because I think Wardley Mapping has the potential to help a lot of people do a lot of good.

Some parts of Wardley Mapping do need friction, so we aren’t thoughtless in how we use it. But much of what is hard right now really shouldn’t be.

I think we ought to work on it.

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