Mapping the Unknown

December 22, 2009

Our work focuses on the space between what is currently true and what is desired.  Two key challenges emerge.  1) These two points are knowable,  but they are often not clearly defined or understood.  2) The space between them is unknowable:  if it were possible to simply plan a known route across this space, it would already be done.

This is not the typical viewpoint of our clients.  Most assume they are clear about their current and intended realities, and refer to  some failing as an explanation of why they have not traversed the territory in between – laziness, the poor performance of employees, just not trying hard enough, and the like.  The transformative aspect of our work together lies in stepping outside doubt and blame and into the adventure of mapping the unknown.

To meet the first challenge (mapping what is unknown amidst the knowable) requires a clear assessment of current resources and challenges and the courage to put this assessment to work.  Where are current resources being squandered?  How are challenges or weaknesses being ignored or dealt with ineffectually?

For example, an alternative health practitioner was dismayed at the lack of response to her advertising efforts. Together, we identified a key barrier in her advertising: the assumption that her audience already understood the problems for which she was offering a solution.  Learning to educate through her outreach efforts was a crucial component to her success.

A non-profit client was frustrated by its lack of growth in membership and revenue.  This current reality made sense however, as the organization realized that both staffing and volunteer labor were being utilized at maximum capacity, thus creating a necessary and understandable limit on growth.

Once the key problem has been identified most clients think that all that remains is to apply the solution.  What is lost in this assumption is an awareness of the chaotic nature of change.  The identified solution is not simply a new way to get to a destination already attained.

Rather, it is a catalyst into territory never before explored.  This can be the most interesting, satisfying and creative aspect of the process, activating what is centrally true and valuable in the current system.

Our health practitioner realized her own interest and desire to be a teacher, to bring all that she had learned to those who would benefit from this knowledge.  The non-profit organization realized the significance of current staff and volunteer efforts, and took new efforts to invest in the coordination and recognition of these resources – thus investing in  the heart and strength of the organization itself.

Through mapping the unknown in the current reality and creating a map into the unknown territory of movement forward, a third map is created:  a map of what is desired.  While the destination was in some ways known from the start, the true nature of that destination reveals itself only as it is achieved.  In both cases, they discovered the path by walking it.

As the health practitioner created her maps, she became an author and speaker devoted to promoting the ability of individuals to heal themselves.  As the non-profit engaged in its journey, it became a strong community of people working together to make a difference.  In both cases, this is who and what these clients were from the start.  The difference was in their ability to strongly actualize this gift in their world.

Maps abound detailing how to get from one place to another – and every one of them describes what is currently known.  To actualize the potential of who and what we are, we must map the unknown.  What a fabulous journey that can be.