choice three
map your map
The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did
at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
Muhammad Ali
LYOU_C03.QXD 2/6/06 2:05 pm Page 87
THINK ABOUT where you are at the moment. Are you able
to step back and take a view of the world as it is rather than
how you think you see it? Do you see other people’s points of
view and accept them as reasonable? Are you able to step
outside any entrenched view of yourself and others and take
a fresh look at who you are and what you want to be? Maybe
you believe that you are able to look at every situation afresh,
but for the most part people have slipped into a singular and
biased way of looking at themselves and others without ever
realizing it.
Imagine your plane is coming in to land at Heathrow airport,
and suddenly the pilot announces that the undercarriage is
stuck and the plane will have to make an emergency landing.
When the plane lands, you’re instructed to leave the plane
rapidly, as a fire may break out. Do you leave quickly and
safely as instructed, or, as is the reality in many crashes, do
you put your life at risk by waiting to get your things out of
the overhead luggage rack?
Most people still follow the mental map programmed for a
normal landing. The standard map is, on landing, everyone
stands up and waits to get their possessions, and only once
this task is achieved do they leave the plane. In an emergency,
momentum lead yourself
LYOU_C03.QXD 2/6/06 2:05 pm Page 88
however, speed is of the essence, and the quickest person out
of the plane has the greatest chance of survival. Evidence
suggests that those who survive are the people who ignore
the existing map of self-imposed rules, and look for ways to
circumvent the normal landing procedures. They do this by
increasing the level of variety in the maps used to make sense
of the world.
Rich variety: get spoilt for choice
We need to always have sufficient variety to generate new
ideas and look at ourselves and the world in new and fresh
ways. This approach is known as Ashby’s law of requisite
variety. Ross Ashby suggested that any regulator must have
as much or more variety than the system it regulates. In a
game of chess, the variety of moves you have available must
be greater than the variety of moves available to your
opponent. The same can be seen in football, the stock market
or a children’s painting competition. In any situation, you
have to understand how much choice and variety exists, and
then be able to match or exceed this level. The person with the
most flexibility will influence and lead the environment.
Think back to when you were a child, desperate for the latest
toy. You wanted it badly. It was the most important thing in
the world. But your mum refused, so you went to your dad.
He in turn refused, so you pressured your grandparents and
favourite aunties and uncles. After this failed to work you
adopted different strategies: sulking, sobbing, screaming and
scratching the brand new furniture. This went on and on until
choice three map your map
LYOU_C03.QXD 2/6/06 2:05 pm Page 89
your strategies worked. Even though the grown-ups tried to
respond to all your strategies with their own responses,
ultimately you outdid them. You had the staying power to try
more and more ways to get want you wanted from them. As
a parent, there are only so many punishments you can invoke,
but as a child the options available are mind blowing. At this
point both you and your parents experienced the awesome
power of rich variety.
Your persistence can be summarized as ‘if what you’re doing
doesn’t work, do something else’. The head dimension uses
this as its primary ethos and argues that we must increase the
variety of ways in which we lead ourselves and others. We
use the variety in two ways. First, we use the diversity to see
life from more than just a unitary standpoint. Second, life is
movement and movement is change. If we are to change
ourselves and others successfully, we must learn how to map
our maps and change how we change.
To enhance your personal leadership you have to look
beyond the standard solutions and learn how to originate
new ideas and alternatives. The person who has only
restricted variety in their armoury will fall by the wayside as
other competitors come along and offer more diverse, rich
and imaginative solutions.
Restricted variety
So, how do we know when a person, team or organization has
a restricted mental map? Think of the typical political
interview. The pattern is generally consistent. The politician is
asked a question by the interviewer and promptly responds
momentum lead yourself
LYOU_C03.QXD 2/6/06 2:05 pm Page 90

Get Lead Yourself, 2nd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.