Issue 22 - 6 Apr 2005

Concept Mapping as a Method of Conscientizing Meaning from Values

I have always used Mind Maps to analyse and understand patterns.  This all changed when John Loty sent me an article on concept mapping, a technique originally developed by software engineers, to capture knowledge from human experts, for the purpose of using the captured knowledge in the software of their expert computer systems. Concept mapping is now used by people in all walks of life who wish to explore concepts and build common understanding - it enables real dialogue at the concept level.

     So what is concept mapping? It is a technique whereby the component parts of a concept, and the relationships between them, can be represented diagrammatically. For example, the basic form of the values model we use can be mapped as:

Fritz stresses the importance of identifying our dynamic urge (A similar concept to what we call finding your True North):
Our dynamic urge is wired into us. We don't choose to have it, we just have it. We can't get rid of it either, although sometimes we may drive it underground in ourselves. We cannot add to it, take away from it, or fake it.
     The dynamic urge is a genuine phenomenon of the human spirit in which people, no matter what the circumstances, continue to want to create something that matters to them.
     Fritz goes on to highlight how organisations, like people, have a form of dynamic urge. This force exists in the purpose of the organisation. It is found in the hope people have for the organisation. It can't be manufactured by adopting certain behaviours. It cannot be declared into existence. You can't fake it, even if you are a good faker at other things. You can't fake that you have it when you don't have it. When it is thwarted, it doesn't go away; it smoulders as an undercurrent of frustration that builds over time. When an organisation is filled with people who have strong dynamic urges and it, by itself, has a strong dynamic urge, then magic happens. 
Your True North/Dynamic Urge can be found through unfolding meaning and purpose via a comprehensive values analysis process. It is for this reason Fritz says: 
I am a big believer in people being true to their aspirations and values. I am a big believer in the organization being true to itself as well.
     Comprehensive values analysis involves taking an inventory of your values and analysing the patterns in the elicited values - the process is greatly simplified and increased in efficacy, through using the elicited values to guide the creation of a concept map of the beliefs that give the values their systemic structure.
Concept mapping software can downloaded for free from:


  • Cañas, A., Hill, G.,  Carff, R., Suri, N., Lott, J., Eskridge, T., Gómez, G., Arroyo, M., Carvajal, R. "CmapTools: A Knowledge Modeling and Sharing Environment",   In: Concept Maps: Theory, Methodology, Technology, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Concept Mapping, A.J. Cañas, J.D. Novak, and F.M. González, Editors. 2004, Universidad Pública de Navarra: Pamplona, Spain. p. 125-133, 
  • Fritz, R. 1999, The Path of Least Resistance For Managers:  Designing Organizations to Succeed, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco.
  • Henderson, M. 2003, Finding True North: Discover your values, enrich your life, Harper Business, Auckland.

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