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Landmarks (ExPLORE Part Three)

This is the third leg of a six-part journey through ExPLORE℠, our powerful, proprietary Expedition framework. ExPLORE℠ blends time-honored principles with historical planning models and methods of the Great Discoverers to help organizations thrive in their bold endeavors.

Explorers go places where there are no maps to guide the way. Explorers create the maps so that others may follow. They do this by being the first ones to connect the dots, the Landmarks.

These seem like obvious, straightforward statements, but in reality they're quite extraordinary. Where maps already exists, someone may discover regions unknown to him, but not unknown to the original Explorer. Explorers discover so that others may follow. Their careful cartography blazes the trail.

Good maps carefully identify Landmarks, the relationship between Landmarks, the distance between Landmarks, and the relative size or importance of one Landmark in relation to another. Maps also depict what a Landmark is so the follower knows if it’s a river, mountain or trail. A map shows what is in a place; it provides the “lay-of-the-land.”

Landmarks are discovered on Expeditions. They are the visible points of reference, meticulously noted, even if their context is not totally understood. At the beginning of an Expedition, Landmarks are seen but their relationship to other Landmarks is often not understood. Prudent Explorers note these Landmarks merely to mark their location and existence. They wait to assign meaning. They know that understanding often comes later, with a wider view of the context.

In addition to noting Landmarks, Explorers are always collecting data. Their journals describe what is seen, smelled, experienced and understood in a situation. The specimens collected become the artifacts used to represent their stories, and are kept to be studied for further insight.

Inventor Thomas Edison could be said to be an Explorer. His journals are fascinating. Rutgers University, along with Johns Hopkins Press, is publishing the extensive records of Thomas Edison through the Thomas A Edison Papers Project. They started at the beginning of his career and, at this point, have completed seven volumes. These volumes contain letters, drawings, and notes from the various experiments Edison and his team completed. These resources reveal the processes Edison used, the critical thinking he employed, and the Landmarks he discovered. What stands out are his detailed descriptions and analysis of everything he did. Edison noted each step of his work even if it didn’t seem significant at the time.

The journals of Lewis & Clark’s journey through the Northwest note everything they saw and experienced. They include drawings of plants, maps of the land, and commentary on their interaction with Indians. In his expedition to the South Pole, explorer Roald Amundsen's journal includes all the processes used to get there and every Landmark he discovered along the way.

At The Exploration Group we take careful note of what we see, hear, experience and understand in the Expeditions that we undertake with businesses, organizations, groups and individuals. Learning “to listen” for the Landmarks never ends.

In a recent Expedition with an educational think tank, we started to meet people in a particular industry. We noted their relationships, their focus, and their area of influence. Over time we began to “map” patterns of connection and overlapping influence. Today we use that map to strategize places to be (and not be), relationships to pursue, and to quickly find any missing links in our strategy.

Here are some considerations for discovering Landmarks. • Use all the senses. • Note patterns and variations in patterns. • Develop a system for noting and tracking Landmarks. • Note the Landmark, even if the context is not clear. • Maintain an open mind; don’t have preconceived results in mind.

To management types, tracking Landmarks seems like a fuzzy, never-ending process. It could be that way, but good Explorers are always processing and recalibrating based on what they see and understand. They are “pondering” the Landmarks for the short term and the long term. Then, at some point, they make a decision based on the insights learned from Pondering, and the Landmarks provide a direction forward. It’s from that foundation that the Explorer orienteers to the future.

Don’t miss parts one and two of the ExPLORE℠ framework: Expectation and Pondering.

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