Home > Articles > Business & Management

This chapter is from the book

Strip Maps

A third type of mistaken map is what we call a strip map. A strip map has a restricted or narrow view of the terrain and a fixed sequence for getting from one place to another. Like the other mistaken maps, this one has been with us for a very long time. The strip map in Exhibit 2-7 shows how to get from London to Rome. As you can see, there is a fixed sequence of going from one monastery to the next and a rather narrow view of the path.

EXHIBIT 2-7EXHIBIT 2-7 The road from London to Rome.

Strip maps get established because particular sequences and a narrow path have been shown to work in the past. When we show this old strip map to people, they often laugh. "How could anyone follow such a narrow map?" they ask. When drawn out on paper, strip maps do look rather narrow. How can people fall into the strip-mapping mistake? It is actually quite easy. Although the narrowness of a strip map is obvious when it is drawn out on paper, that narrowness is often missed when the map is seen in our mind's eye. Why? The answer lies in the success of the map. If we follow the strip map sequence, stay within the narrow parameters, and succeed in reaching our desired destination, why would we necessarily think about alternative sequences or other paths off the beaten track to the left or the right? The answer is that we don't. Who has time to argue with success? The sequence worked, so let's not think too much about other alternatives and, instead, simply use the map again.

Consider Barnes & Noble for example. CEO, Lennie Riggio, got his start in selling books when he dropped out of New York Uni

versity in 1965 and opened SBX (Student Book Exchange). By 1971, he owned five SBX college bookstores. That year, he bought a struggling book shop in Manhattan called Barnes & Noble. In 1979, he bought Marboro Books, which had six stores. At this point, the strip map was being established and reinforced. The mental strip map looked something like this: To sell more books, own more brick-and-mortar book shops.

The strip map was further reinforced as more brick-and-mortar bookstores were built. As Riggio built more stores, he also made them bigger. Whereas many of his early bookstores carried 20,000 titles, the newly constructed bookstores carried twice that number. The strip map was further established and reinforced: To get to the destination of more sales, buy or build more brick-and-mortar stores and make them bigger.

The entrenchment of this map solidified when, in 1986, Riggio, using junk bonds and his company, Barnes & Noble (37 total bookstores), bought B. Dalton (over 800 total bookstores). The combination gave Barnes & Noble nearly 850 bookstores, most of them twice the size of the original Barnes & Noble store in Manhattan. In fact, with the acquisition of B. Dalton came not only many larger bookstores, but a few "mega" bookstores, as well. These mega stores carried over 100,000 titles.

Unlike nearly all of its regular big bookstores, which were in shopping malls, the mega bookstores were so big that they were built as separate, stand-alone businesses. Inside these brick-and-mortar shops, Riggio added couches, coffee bars, music CDs, and free copies of the New York Times Book Review. Barnes & Noble built scores and scores of these mega bookstores throughout the 1990s. In fact, Barnes & Noble built 95 mega stores in 1995 alone.

By 1995, the strip map was firmly entrenched and reinforced by millions of dollars of success: To sell more books, you need to have (build or buy) more and bigger brick-and-mortar bookstores. In fact, the map was so successful that even though the U.S. book market grew by less than 1% per year during the 1990s, Barnes & Noble's market share increased from 7% to over 15% during the same time period. This increased share came largely from small, independent bookstores. By July 1998, Barnes & Noble's stock price hit an all-time high of $48, which represented a 220% increase over its price just two years earlier. Barnes & Noble's strip map (Exhibit 2-8) looked brilliant.

EXHIBIT 2-8EXHIBIT 2-8 Barnes & Noble's strip map of market success.

What happened? In July 1995, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, decided to follow a different map to selling books. Rather than restrict customers to only 100,000 titles, he would make over a million titles available to them. And rather than have bricks and mortar, customers could click in their orders. For three years, Barnes & Noble totally dismissed Amazon.com. However, when after three years' time, Amazon.com had 8.4 million registered customers and Barnes & Noble had just 1.7 million, shareholders of Barnes & Noble took notice. Many sold their Barnes & Noble stock, and the price tumbled by nearly 50%.

But you may be thinking, "Wait a minute. Look at what has happened to Amazon.com. Its stock price has crashed, and dot-coms are now dot-bombs." This is true. However, just as we were irrationally exuberant about the future of Amazon.com, we run the risk of being irrationally pessimistic about the future of online book sales. We should not confuse Amazon.com's big spending to add everything from CDs to garden tools and the resulting losses as evidence that online book sales will disappear along with Amazon.com's stock price. Online book sales continue to grow and cannibalize book sales from other brick-and-mortar sources. If e-books take off, and we then are able both to order and receive books via the Internet, many predict that online book sales will rival brick-and-mortar-based book sales.

But let's not get sidetracked. The main point is that the strip map of obtaining more sales through more and bigger stores was so entrenched in Barnes & Noble that it took a massive loss in market value before the grip of the mental map and its inherent restriction were changed. In fairness, once recognized in 1998, Lennie Riggio did create Barnesandnoble.com. Unfortunately, at that point, he was playing a serious game of catch-up. By that point, Amazon.com had a 75% percent market share of all online book purchases.

In summary, several key insights grow out of our strip map discussion. First, like all mental maps, strip maps get retained only if they work. A certain sequence of steps and narrowness of territory gets incorporated into a strip map only if it works. Second, as long as you don't venture outside the narrow map, a strip map will likely continue to work. Third, only after a new sequence is proven to work or after a different route to the desired destination is shown to be successful is the old sequence challenged. Unfortunately, by that point, a successful strip map (even if mistaken), like all mental maps, is extremely difficult to change and breaking through this brain barrier is as likely as hitting Mach 1 in a Cessna.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020