Get the map out of your bag

I was doing an online navigation course aimed at those racing mountain marathons but the parallels with business and personal life were clear.

“Lots of people keep their map in their bag and only get it out after they are lost. Elites always keep their map to hand.”

Any map, be it an Ordnance Survey 1:25k or a personal/business/product roadmap, needs to be immediately available at the point of wayfinding decisions.


Any amount of availability friction increases the likelihood that you’ll press on regardless – when short on time – without checking your course and therefore make directional errors.

It can of course be a bit of a flow killer to consult the map when you are making fast progress; running down a mountain or otherwise.

But, anyone who has mistakenly descended 250 metres in the mountains before realising they have to regain that height on tired legs – or made a similar business/personal decision that’s taken them in the wrong direction – wasting valuable energy and momentum knows how quickly directional errors can compound.

The guidance from the world of elite mountain marathon winners is instructive:

  1. Print and laminate just the portion of the map you need for the particular race so you can keep it handy in all weathers.
  2. Check your position on the map regularly.
  3. Practice checking so it becomes super quick and second nature.

Ok, that’s great for running in the mountains but what about business/personal maps?

In the pre-COVID-19 face-to-face world, the formula was simple; print and display a massive version of the roadmap prominently in the office, take hard copies to all meetings, and evangelise relentlessly.

The formula for the remote working world needs some tweaks – here’s what I’ve found works so far:

  1. Print a copy and stick it on a wall in your home office – this is your ‘in any weather’ copy that will survive wifi outages, laptops overheating, kids messing with your router, and those digital overload moments when you crave something analogue to just scribble on.
  2. Pin the latest version somewhere digital with high organisational visibility e.g. internal wiki. Searchers can self serve with zero friction and casual passers by may take an interest.
  3. Always keep the file open on your computer so you can easily share your screen during video calls.
  4. Mercilessly include a copy in the appendix of any remotely related presentations! (no one’s printing those packs anymore so there’s no wasted paper).
  5. Schedule regular time to deliberately review your/teams’ direction and progress; cadence will vary but I’ve found 15-30 mins weekly works well.

Your map will be well and truly out of your bag and you can course correct before you get lost.

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Rob is a consultant, technologist, facilitator and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife in Henley-on-Thames.

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