A Blog is Born: Advice to a new blogger

January 10, 2014

Tudor Rickards

You have started a business course and you have to write a blog post based on a current news story. Here’s one approach based on experiences of writing and publishing over a thousand such posts

I write two leadership blog posts each week for Leaders we deserve. In six years, I have never failed to find suitable news stories. Here are some tips which have worked for me as I clocked up over a thousand posts for Leaders We Deserve.

The Mapping principle

I think of what I am doing as map reading, map testing and map making. You can find a lot of posts if you search for map making on this Leaders we deserve site. A fuller explanation is to be found in Chapter 1 of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Map reading refers to your examination of the primary source or sources of your news story.
Map testing is when you look more carefully at the news story to assess its credibility. That is why looking at more than one source of the same story is valuable. Here I like to use my imagination by trying to guess the most urgent dilemmas facing key decision makers.
Map making is ‘getting personal’ by relating the news stories to your own experiences. If you understand the post you can change that map and comment on what you have done. Even more important, you may have made some change to your own personally important knowledge. For example, a story may show you a new interpretation about a piece of information or of your belief. The map making refers to changes in your maps or to your version of the original news story.

Here is a post with a three minute test with ten questions. You can take it to test your understanding of the mapping principle.

Active search

Each day I search actively for a breaking news story which has an easy to understand main point often expressed in its headline. If I see such a story with a leadership implication. I become more interested, and test if it is attracting social media interest on Twitter.

Writing your post

Stage one is reporting your map reading in your own words.I cut and paste the core of the story, always with the source acknowledged, I hope. However, if you are working on a student assignment, check with your tutors and with examination regulations if you are worried about word limits, citation style, and acceptability of cut and paste efforts.

Beyond factual reporting and IMHO

The post becomes more interesting and will gain more approval and ‘likes’, even from examiners, if you add something new. Map-testing is one way. Introducing interpretations or personal judgement is fine, but make sure you indicate that you are not mixing beliefs with assertion of accepted facts. On the Internet this is still sometimes signaled by IMHO which stands for In My Humble Opinion.

An example

This week I carried out my active searches as usual. On Monday [January 6th 2014] I reported on on typical story about the future of Hollywood blockbusters. You can read it as an example of my mapping approach. My map reading showed the debate about the future of blockbusting films in face of new technology. My map testing suggested to be that there was plenty of evidence to suggest that Hollywood faced dilemmas of escalating costs of movie making and risks of trying out original story lines.

Map-making suggested that I had seen something similar in a quite different context, namely in the pharmaceutical industry, and this gave me a hook for the story. Maybe leaders in Big Pharma face similar dilemmas to those facing movie makers. The old models are failing: should they work harder to fix them or change to new business models? Can they risk the company on one or two as yet undiscovered innovations?

Summary

If you want to try out this system, to help you write a blog, start today. Look at the breaking news stories. Try to capture their core point or headline. Test the assertions in the reported stories. Look for tough decisions or dilemmas facing leaders. See if the process links with your personal beliefs, the O in IMHO.

And revise thoroughly

And for most people, thorough revision pays off.

Good luck in your future blogging.


Andy Murray may need more mental map-making for Open success

April 21, 2012

Andy Murray has shown a willingness to learn through his new coach Ivan Lendl.

We examine how the learning will require reframing not of broken racquets but of mental maps

As Murray was heading for defeat against Tomas Berdych at the Monte Carlo Masters event [April 20th 2012] he smashed his racquet in frustration at his failure to find a strategy to cope with his opponent’s muscular game.

Coping with the unexpected

The defeat was not particularly unexpected. Although Murray is higher ranked, Berdych’s game is suited to Monaco’s clay court surfaces. Murray’s preparation has been hampered by unusual circumstances (withdrawal of three opponents through injury in the last few weeks, including in his last match). But the unusual has also to be coped with. The manner of the loss suggested Murray had not found a plan to deal with ‘events’ and with Berdych.

The post-match interview

We can examine the post-match interview for signs of the Scot’s mental state. I borrow from the principles of mental map-making which are being taught to business students including those at the Miami location of Manchester Business School programs not far from Murray’s own training facilities. The mapping approach attempts to examine the way an individual (or a group) may be ‘reading’ a situation and making sense of it by testing assumptions, and maybe changing his or her mind through mental reframing or conceptual map-making.

In post-match interviews Andy usually shows evidence of an acute mind actively engaged. That is in itself unusual, and compares well with evidence from interviews with top sports figures generally (I am thinking of the vast majority of interviews with fooball players and many managers). I have added my own ‘map testing’ interpretations of Andy’s maps.

“At some points today in the match I did well, and at some points I didn’t do so well,” said the Scot.
[Map reading]

“Today is a good match to learn from because I was playing a top player who played very, very well.
[Recognising the need to learn by map-mapping]

“I hung in, in the first set. Then in the tie-break I got a few lucky bounces. He missed a couple of shots that he hadn’t been missing.
[More map-reading]

“At the start of the second set he obviously started playing better and my level dropped – as the scoreline suggests.”
[map-making? He concludes that Berdych gained an advantage by playing the better better and that his own level dropped. He bases it on the evidence of the scoreline. He lost the set heavily].

Some tentative conclusions

A post-match interview may only reveal a glimpse of a player’s thinking processes. There may be deliberate withholding of information. And there is the possibility of ‘knowing more than can be said’. Just on the evidence, it seems to me that Andy Murray has untapped potential which if released will increase his chances of winning his much-coveted first Open Championship. He shows he has the mental equipment to reflect and develop his game further.

Although not obvious in the snippet of interview above, he is adequately motivated (over-motivated, some may say. His reflections stop short of acknowledging the dilemmas he faces. Can he rely on his exceptional defensive skills or should he attempt to be more aggressive, for example?
Maybe some more reframing of his mind sets will produce less reframing of his racquets.

Acknowledgement

The image could have been of Andy’s racquet. I suspect it’s not. It comes from the excellent tennis blog This tennis.

Update

A few months later Andy Murray won the US Open, with ample evidence that he has developed the necessary mental reframing.


Mitt Romney’s ‘Potholed’ Road Map

January 6, 2012

Mitt Romney appears to be the front-runner as Republican candidate for the next Presidential elections. His journey towards nomination has been described as ‘a potholed road-map’. Leaders We Deserve examines the metaphor

The metaphors of map-reading, map-testing, and map-making have been applied to leadership ‘journeys’. The metaphor also crops up in political writings as ‘road maps’ leading to peace.

The Fiscal Times applied the metaphor to the road to be travelled by Mitt Romney who appears increasingly likely to be the Republican candidate to oppose President Obama in the next Presidential campaign.

In the view of most political professionals, the race for the Republican presidential nomination is essentially over. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney … has a 20-point lead [Jan 5th 2012] over his nearest rival in recent polls [which suggests that] most Republicans will quickly coalesce around him as the inevitable nominee… Of course, that doesn’t mean that Romney’s road to the nomination is free of potholes.

On maps and journeys

It is more precise to say that the map is of territory through which a journey must pass. The map indicates the road to be travelled. The Fiscal Times believes the road will be one which will not be easy on to travel, hence the pothole reference. Students of leadership may have noticed how in in everyday speech we may mix up the map with the journey. (Kark Weick likes to say that ‘the map is not the territory’.

The Fiscal Times has written about the likely political journey for Mitt Romney and examined the map and the route to be taken. This is mostly Map reading. The article then attempted to understand the journey better (map testing).

A complication: maps within maps

This map-testing suggested that the road would be a potholed one. Note how the author of the article has to outline a personal map, and incorporate a ‘reading’ of Mitt Romney’s possible mapping processes. And you may also have noticed, that I am now reading and testing the article’s maps. Don’t get too hooked on these ‘maps within maps’ . They conform to a systems theory of recursiveness which means the ‘maps of maps’ replicate the structures found in the simpler ones. You can satisfy yourself on this point if it an unfamiliar concept, by doing more ‘map-testing’. You will find that the basic structure will stay the same, although some features will change from higher level to lower levels of recursion.

So back to Mitt Romney’s journey

The Fiscal Times tests the suggestion that the Romney road is full of potholes by pointing to the challenges from other candidates who have become front-runners from time to time. These are metaphorically the potholes or challenging aspects of the journey.

Potholes and dilemmas

It sometimes helps map-testing to look out for a leader’s dilemmas. Here the potholes are signals of implied dilemmas. The article tests the pothole theory by describing Romney’s support, which is sticking stubbornly at 25%. Romney needs some way of dealing with the dilemma of low support, while being hailed as the front-runner.

Divide and rule (and ‘map-making’).

The article addresses this dilemma by citing an earlier article suggesting a leadership strategy for Romney. The suggested strategy is to avoid attacking other candidates, leaving them to attack one another. It is a divide and rule strategy. It is also an example of map-making.

More about divide and rule strategies

By coincidence, a similar map briefly became headlines in the UK, where the divide and rule strategy also figured. It involved the politician Diane Abbott in accusations of racism after an exchange on Twitter. There may be some value in comparing the two maps and the bumpiness of the journeys ahead for those involved.


The Guardian’s brilliant map-testing and map-making in Murdoch meltdown

July 19, 2011

The crisis at NewsCorp has been produced in no small part by brilliant investigative journalism from The Guardian newspaper. Their analysis of Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation demonstrates how a story can be read and tested for its credibility to help reshape public beliefs

Journalists are attempting to create new stories all the time. This is a process which metaphorically examines what is known (map reading), tests its credibility (map testing) and offers re-interpretations (map making).

As the crisis unfolded [in July 2011], the Guardian’s daily accounts became the first ‘go to’ for many who had not been regular readers. A nice example of its approach can be found in its treatment of the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson
as chief of the Metropolitan Police.

An interpretation

The piece was presented as ‘an interpretation’ of the resignation statement. The map was presented as provided by official sources. Its contents were scrutinised to get behind the text (map-testing). By focussing in such a way, a story behind the story emerges. For example:

When Sir Paul writes that he has no knowledge of the phone hacking in 2006

The Guardian notes: Reminds people that the original inquiry happened on Sir Ian Blair’s watch… nothing to do with him

When Sir Paul writes that his meetings with the NOTW deputy editor Neil Wallis were a matter of public record

The Guardian notes: Between September 2006 and June 2009, Stephenson had seven dinners with Neil Wallis. That’s a lot of dinners for a deputy editor. The meetings weren’t “public” until this weekend.

When Sir Paul notes that unlike former NOTW Editor Andy Coulson, who had been employed by Prime Minister David Cameron, deputy Editor Neil Wallis had never been convicted or associated with the phone-hacking issue

The Guardian notes: Stephenson is effectively saying to Cameron: Your guy is smellier than my guy. It leaves Cameron vulnerable to the question: if the Met chief is willing to take responsibility and resign, why don’t you?

The map-making continues

The last piece of map-testing had become part of the questioning of those interviewed about their insights yesterday [July 18th 2011], including London’s mayor Boris Johnson. Boris was announcing the resignation of Sir Paul’s deputy, John Yates, the latest casuality in the crisis. Quizzed on Sir Paul he was somewhat less ebullient than usual, and rather unenthusiastically refused to agree that David Cameron should resign for lack of judgement in the Andy Coulson affair.

Making sense of a complex story

The Guardian method of analysis is worth studying by any student wishing to test the accuracy of some text. It can be extended to ‘reading’ of situations of all kinds.


How Murray the Map-Maker is figuring out clay

May 30, 2009

Andy Murray French Open

Murray squeaks through the first week of the French Open. But he is a quick learner as his post-match interviews show

LWD believes that leadership requires skills at figuring out what to do under tough conditions. Sport offers plenty of examples of how a player reacts to adversity and learns from it.

One way to go ‘behind the headlines’ to see whether you can detect a player’s skill at ‘reading’ a situation. I’ve taken one of Andy Murray’s post-match interviews during the French Open to show what can revealed about his map-making (sense-making) skills.

Murray v Tipsarevic

The match was interesting, if a bit ugly to watch. Tipsarevic came out determined to ‘out-ugly’ his opponent. Murray is himself building a reputation for winning ugly, maybe something he developed while working with earlier coach, Brad Gilbert, who wrote a book on the subject

In this match, the big-swinging Serb attacked powerfully enough to seize the initiative in the first set. At one stage winning rather easily. Error counts were high on both sides. Murray dug deep, and eventually won the set on a tie-break.

The mysterious momentum effect had kicked in. Murray looked a very likely winner. The end came more quickly than expected. His opponent retired after medical breaks at the end of the second set.

How did he do that?

Murray had toughed it out. He had shown similar skills in the previous round, when he turned around another match after appearing to be heading out of the tournament. So what can we learn from the performances?

The winning ugly bit was summed up by a Guardian reporter who had watched Murray train with Gilbert

As a player Gilbert’s approach was – and, as a coach, is – all about strategy, following a game plan, burrowing away, undermining the opponent’s game, getting him to unravel. In a way, though, he has fallen victim to the sound bite popularity of the book’s title, Winning Ugly. It’s not about winning by cheating or trying to gain unfair advantage, but wining despite not being blessed with a naturally beautiful game.

Murray did not get on with Gilbert, and eventually sacked him in favour of a less-qualified bunch of less abrasive acolytes. I suspect Murray is more interested in playing beautiful tennis than he would admit. On clay the beauty at the moment often comes out of desperation when he improvises outrageously when in trouble

The post-match interview

Immediate on-court interviews bring out the laconic worse of Murray. But give him time to reflect, and more interesting ideas are revealed. Here’s an interview made after the Tipsarevic match. I have added comments about Murray’s map-making or analytical skills in the interview:

It was Tipsarevic, 24, who took the initiative with some powerful hitting as Murray struggled with unforced errors in the early stages. The unseeded player broke twice in succession to move 5-2 clear but twice failed to serve out .. It came down to a tie-break and Murray dominated, sealing it with a cross-court backhand winner.
Murray broke at the start of the second set [and] Tipsarevic then called for the trainer to receive treatment on his left thigh. In a match that lacked any real rhythm the world number three immediately handed the break back, but then moved ahead again ..
The increasingly forlorn Tipsarevic now called for the doctor and swallowed some pills at the changeover but was unable to threaten as Murray, still not at his very best, did enough to wrap up the second set. That proved enough for Tipsarevic, who approached the net and shook Murray’s hand after one hour and 51 minutes.

Murray’s analysis

“I didn’t see much wrong with him in the first set. He maybe slowed down his serve a little bit. It’s one of those things that can be tough sometimes when you don’t know how bad someone’s problem is or if they’re going to come out firing.”

[LWD: Murray wonders why he didn’t notice T’s injury, and why he didn’t capitalize more efficiently when it became obvious. ]

“You just fight and try to come back.. and it’s much easier on clay, you get into more rallies.

[LWD: Most players can’t or won’t offer more than a well-worn cliché. Murray ‘reads’ and ‘tests’ the map of how to recover on clay, and finds an explanation for himself, i.e. he is making his own map on winning on clay.]

“One of the things is not to panic if you go behind. One break is nothing – you can always find ways to come back.”

[LWD: more map-making. Maybe earlier matches were lost because he panicked when going behind, and didn’t have a way back, didn’t have a decent map. Now he is sketching out his own map. And it’s personal. And positive. And there is the logic that he, Murray, can find ways back because he has more ways of playing ugly, and more ways or producing the beautiful winner while doing it]

Map Reading, Map Testing and Map Making

I have been fond of the Map Making as a metaphor for Sense Making for some while. Quite a bit more can be found in the book Dilemmas of Leadership.

This example may go some way to explaining the processes applied to the development of sporting leaders such as Andy Murray and the influence of earlier map-makers such as his mentor Brad Gilbert.

Image

Image acknowledged from the tennis blog by Paulo Cleto


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