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Successful but Mistaken Maps

As important as this is, it is also critical to understand that, even when using successful maps, people often use mistaken maps. For example, even though the Island of California worked for a while, it was nonetheless inaccurate and full of mistakes. Thus, even when a map has worked well in the past, the seeds of its future failure may lie in that fact that it is inaccurate and mistaken in the first place! This is important because people often believe that if their map works, it must be correct. Consequently, one key to leading strategic change effectively is to recognize and help others see that a map's past success does not necessarily correspond to its correctness.

Interestingly, we have found that these mental mapping mistakes have direct corollaries to common mistakes made with physical maps of the real world. By examining actual maps and their errors, we have gained a much better understanding of the types of mistaken mental maps that people regularly use.

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