A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
I just had lunch with Shenwei, one of my ex-students who had just taken a job in a mid-sized consulting firm. After a bit of catching up I offered he was looking a bit lost. “I just got handed a project to help our firm enter a new industry – semiconductors. They want me to map out the space so we can figure out where we can add value.
“Great, now we have a start. Now give me a few words that describe what they do, or mean, or what you don’t know about them.”
I pointed out he now had a starter list that not only contained companies but the beginning of a map of the relationships between those companies. And while he had a few facts, others were hypotheses and concepts. And he had a ton of unanswered questions.
We spent the next 20 minutes deconstructing that sketch and mapping out the Second Pass list as a diagram (see Mapping – Third Pass.)
As the information fog was beginning to lift, I could see Shenwei’s confidence returning. I pointed out that he had a real advantage that his assignment was in a known industry with lots of available information. He quickly realized that he could keep adding information to the columns in the third mapping pass as he read through the reports and web sites.
My suggestion was to use the diagram in the third mapping pass as the beginning of a wall chart – either physically (or virtually if he could keep it in all in his head). And every time he learned more about the industry to update the relationship diagram of the industry and its segments. (When he pointed out that there were existing diagrams of the semiconductor industry he could copy, I suggested that he ignore them. The goal was for him to understand the industry well enough that he could draw his own map ab initio – from the beginning. And if he did so, he might create a much better one.)
When lunch was over Shenwei asked if it was OK if he checked in with me as he learned new things and I agreed. What he didn’t know was that this was only the first step in a ten-step industry mapping process.
Two weeks later he handed his leadership an industry report that covered the ten steps below and contained a sophisticated industry diagram he created from scratch. A far cry from his original napkin sketch!
Six months later his work on this project convinced his company that there was a large opportunity in the semiconductor space, and they started a new practice with him in it. His work won him the “best new employee” award.
The Ten Steps to Map any Industry
Basic Industry Understanding
Detailed Industry Understanding