Visible Thinking. Unlocking Causal Mapping for Practical Business Results

  • ID: 2211439
  • Book
  • 396 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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We live in a complex world. We are constantly challenged by issues that seem at first to be simple, but on reflection turn out to have complicated causes and consequences that can dramatically affect our lives. Often, getting a handle on what the issues are is half the battle. Imagine a tool that can help you unravel the complexity of the decision–making labyrinth, a process that would allow you to:
  • Make sense of challenging situations
  • Tackle a large number of ideas and their interconnections
  • Evaluate and explore values, goals, strategies and actions
  • Link strategic thinking to action
  • Develop effective action plans in response to the issues
  • Create shared meaning and agreement
  • Communicate strategies in ways that can be easily understood and acted upon
  • Make people understand why an action is important and how they can help
  • Help you move from ′winging it′ to creating integrated strategies that are robust, both today and in the future, for your firm
Causal mapping is that process. A causal map links your ideas using a few simple rules to reflect causality and so reveal strategic options and goals. Visible Thinking shows you how to create causal maps for individuals and groups, and thereby to capture the power and broad applicability of causal mapping in a business, as well as a personal, context. Visible Thinking will revolutionize the way you approach complex situations and help you decide what you should do, how you should do it and why.

The causal mapping process is illustrated through a series of real cases – from tackling personal problems to strategy–change efforts in business, public and not–for–profit organizations. The cases are used to present a comprehensive set of process guidelines designed to help you create your own action–oriented causal maps.

′Mapping has worked very well in enabling us get to grips with major decisions. The process brings issues and underlying assumptions to the surface, using the diverse perspectives of all members of the group. Then, most helpfully, it structures contributions so that the group reaches a shared understanding and can see the whole, rich picture.′ Ros Micklem, Principal, Cardonald College, Glasgow, Scotland

′Bryson, Ackermann, Eden and Finn beautifully convert the bland noun "map" into the vivid managerial verb, "to map", and in doing so define a unique managerial capability that can provide new sources of order and meaning in chaotic times.′ Karl E. Weick, Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology, University of Michigan Business School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

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About the Authors.

Preface: Creating the Future You Want Causal Mapping for Individuals and Groups.

Part I: What Mapping Is and Why and How It Works.

1. What to Do When Thinking Matters.

2. How and Why Mapping Works.

Part II: What Do I Think? A Guide to Cognitive Mapping.

3. How not to Miss the Boat.

4. House of the Rising Fun.

5. It s a Bummer to Be JB.

Part III: What Do We Think? A Guide to Oval Mapping.

6. To Merge or not to Merge That Is the Question!

7. Small College Hoping not to Get Smaller!

8. Making the Most of our Assets.

9. A Question of Turning Around.

Part IV: Summary and Conclusions.

10. Learning from the Chapters, or How Does This all Fit together and How Can I Make Use of It?

11. Benefits, Limitations and the Future of Mapping.

Resource A: Glossary of Terms not Defined in the Text.

Resource B: Analysing Causal Maps.

Resource C: A Brief and Selective History of Causal Mapping for Facilitating Thinking and Other Commonly Used Mapping Techniques.

Resource D: Additional Resources.

Resource E: Listing of Process Guidelines.


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John M. Bryson is a professor of planning and public affairs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN (USA), and has held visiting appointments at the London Business School, University of Strathclyde, University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. His research, teaching and consulting interests focus on leadership, strategic management and the design of participation processes. He uses causal mapping in much of this work. Professor Bryson has published ten books and over 80 scholarly articles and book chapters. He consults widely in the US and UK.

Fran Ackermann is a professor of strategy and information systems at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (UK). She is interested in working with groups (public or private, multinationals, or small and medium–sized enterprises) on messy, complex, strategic problems and sees causal mapping as a fundamental aspect of this work. She has consulted widely both within the UK and in Europe, Australia and the USA. She is co–developer (with Colin Eden) of causal mapping software both for individual use and for groups and continues to explore means of supporting group working through IT. She has written extensively in the area, having published three books and over 70 scholarly articles.

Colin Eden is a professor of strategic management and management science at the University of Strathclyde. His major interests are in: (1) the processes of strategy making in senior management teams, and (2) the success and failure of large projects. He has consulted with the senior management teams of a wide range of public and private organizations in Europe and North America. In all of these activities he uses causal mapping as a part of the process. He is the author of seven books and over 150 scholarly articles in management science and strategic management.

Charles B. Finn is a management professor at the College of Saint Rose, Albany, New York (USA). He has held teaching and management positions at the University of Minnesota and State University of New York. He has worked as a consultant to private, public and non–profit organizations at local, state and federal levels within the USA and has taught and consulted internationally. He has two interests in mapping: (1) how large, diffuse systems can organize for everyday challenges and do the necessary strategic thinking to realize competitive advantages, and (2) how to use mapping to encourage personal and organizational learning and development.

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