Never having been to sea, we are prone to nautical metaphor.
The Institute for Collapsonomics often uses nautical metaphors in discussing organizational roles and failures. The five basic functions we see are:
Explorers go off the edge of the known and venture into terra incognita. They are scientists, inventors, politicians of a radical stripe, social reformers, artists and every form of innovator. Most of the time they get eaten by wolves and left by the wayside. Sometimes they discover America.
Mapmakers model reality for everybody. They take the available data, which is often generated by Explorers and put it together into patterns that allow us to think about the seas of data around us in ways which let us achieve goals. Unfortunately they are prone to over-generalize, filling in imaginary coastlines and writing Here Be Dragons.
Navigators – unlike literal naval history – are the senior thinkers inside of organizations who figure out what is important, where the action is, what the general shape and form of things to come is and how that needs to be anticipated and responded to. Navigators are prone to overload because their work has been hit hardest by information overload, globalization and temporal acceleration. The world is too big and too fast, and navigators must choose both the map and the course, and get both right for real results. Navigator burnout results in clinging to old maps and is deadly.
Captains get things done, dealing with the daily and annual tasks required to get from A to B. Even Explorers need the captain function filled, although it is often best when the Explorer charts a course for the Unknown, and their Captain gets them there. Captaining is a skill all in itself: execution, hiring, planning, framing goals as achievable hops and so on. Although we are in an increasingly navigator- and mapmaker-heavy future, good Captains still define success in many cases.
Crew and Shipwrights provide the ability to get the job done on the ground. We feel that, in general, skilled technical implementation and labor are undervalued in planning and in our culture, and we afford these roles full respect, while being of the Navigator and Mapmaker persuasions ourselves, for the most part.
Big World Conversations is a new offering that we are making available based on the needs of organizational navigators. I’d noticed for some years that one of the areas where people got the most out of having me around was in discussions about the shape of the world and the optimal course through it for big orgs, and that the people who do that kind of thinking typically strive for overview and clarity against a rapidly shifting background. I have friends who are Navigators and our conversations are often very useful.
Formalizing this service for organizational navigators that I don’t know personally means making it a consulting offering. I presume that if you’re reading this you know me and know my work, and the credentials of the network in London that I hang out with. If you are an organizational navigator and are interested in retaining our “context and orientation” services, take a look at the service offering.