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Cognitive Mapping (2)

Cognitive Mapping (2)

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Published by alia_azizi
Introduction to Cognitive Mapping, Oval Mapping Techniques and Causal Mapping, and its applications
Introduction to Cognitive Mapping, Oval Mapping Techniques and Causal Mapping, and its applications

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Published by: alia_azizi on Apr 25, 2010
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 Assumptions and Theory behind SODA/Cognitive Mapping
Eden and Ackermann (1998) defined SODA as an approach which is designed to provideconsultants with a set of skills such as skills of a facilitator and a content constructor; aframework for designing problem solving interventions; and a set of techniques and tools suchas cognitive mapping and oval mapping technique (OMT) to help their client with messyproblems.SODA is an acronym for Strategic Options Development and Analysis which centred on theimportance of process and negotiation in strategy making and strategy delivery. The key aim of SODA is to achieve understanding and agreement among the team members regarding theproblem under discussion. Its success is being measured in terms of content as well as theenergy and commitment generated for delivering the agreements (Eden & Ackermann 1998).There are four theoretical perspectives behind SODA methodology which includes theindividual, the nature of organisation, the consulting practice and the role of technology andtechnique (Eden & Ackermann 1998). Westcombe (2002) outline Pidds (1996) assumptions onSODA methodology which includes the problem definition, the nature of the organisations, theuse of models and the emphasis placed on organisational and individual learning.SODA involves construction and analysis of models representing individual and groupperspectives. It is based on the philosophy of Interpretivism which had been explained in KellysPersonal Construct Theory. It is therefore focuses on the management of meanings.SODA methodology uses cognitive mapping as a framework for designing problem solvinginterventions. Cognitive mapping being defined by Downs & Stea (1973) as a processcomposed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, codes,stores, recalls, and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday spatial environment. It is a technique designed to capture anindividuals values and embedded wisdom in a diagrammatic format (Ackermann, Eden &Brown 2004), such as a series of interconnected causal maps (Westcombe 2002).
Figure 1: Example of a simple cognitive map
ature of Cognitive Mapping, Oval Mapping and Causal Mapping and itsdifferences
Cognitive mapping is founded on the belief that language is the currency of organisationalproblem solving. Therefore, cognitive maps are a natural, language-based representation of understanding that an individual has a situation and its meanings attributed to conceptsforming part of that situation. A cognitive map is a formal model designed to represent the waya person defines an issue (Eden & Ackermann 1998). McKay and Marshall (2005) quotedBrysons (2004) description of a typical cognitive maps as a network of ideas (nodes), linked byarrows representing relationships between ideas which are captured as chunks of text.Cognitive mapping aims to provide (1) an instrument to help negotiation towards best solution;(2) a way of capturing several peoples perspectives at once by setting the views of one personin the context of the ideas of others; (3) a method for providing structure to multiple andconflicting aspects of argumentation; (4) a method which is designed to suggest action toresolve issues; (5) a method for developing a consensus about a goals system; (6) a methodthat does not violate the natural role of discussion; (7) an efficient way of avoiding group-thinkand bounded vision; (8) a designed scheme for attending to both the content of issues and tothe need of recognition that people change organisations; and (9) a designed environment forensuring effective decision-making (Eden 1990).
You may consider initiating the intervention using OMT in circumstances where the culture of theorganisation is such that people are comfortable with group working. OMT is also useful when there is aneed to obtain faster results, capturing a large number and range of alternative views from a group,albeit in less detail than would be obtained from interviews. OMT also allows for team building,individual learning and a holistic view to be gained. In any event, group workshops using OMT are likelyto occur even if the overall process is started with individual interviews. (Ackermann, Eden & Brown,2004).
It is possible to carry out cognitive mapping on the basis of documents and reports about, and by theperson. Group mapping is where the map is built up in front of the group based on their contributions.This can be done either manually using what we refer to as the Oval Mapping technique (OMT), orthrough using computer support, namely the Decision Explorer software. Group mapping meetings orworkshops have some initial similarities with more traditional brainstorming sessions  however, the useof mapping powerfully extends their function. In addition, group mapping workshops have advantagesand disadvantages compared with individual interviews. In principle, group mapping utilizes groupdynamics and creativity and can play a role in building a team, whereas cognitive mapping in interviewsdeliberately subtracts the individuals from the group context, in order to allow the emergence of information that may be suppressed, influenced or contorted by group pressures. (Ackermann, Eden &Brown, 2004).The OMT workshop is the beginnings of a process of not only surfacing but also structuring theinformation obtained. This structuring process is designed to enable the thinking of the whole group tocohere around a set of strategic issues and their interrelationships, giving rise to an understanding of their impact and therefore priority. After interviewing and OMT exercises, the various strategic issuescollected can now set fore reviewing. It is likely that these issues have, by now, been collated, possiblyanalysed, fed back to, confirmed and clarified by the group members.The process of identifying and structuring the goals system that is emerging from an exploration of strategic issues helps clarify what the strategic direction of the organisation will be if no deliberateactions are taken to change it. Through understanding the potential impact of the issues andopportunities facing the organisation, steps can be taken to position the organisation in such a way as toresolve or capitalise upon these. As such it provides a valuable benchmark against which to consider thestrategic future. Thus, the process involves identifying the goals and understanding how they impact onone another.Causal maps have been used because they focus the attention of the group on strategic action withinthe context of purpose  the casual arrows indicate means to ends or options to outcomes. While thisconsideration of the implications of statements along with reviewing options and constraints enhancesthe groups shared body of understanding, the maps that have been produced, edited and modified willremain somewhat cryptic to anyone other than those who participated in their creation. This isinevitable because the full subtlety of their meaning derives as much from the social negotiation thathas been undertaken as it does from the content and shape of the maps. Nevertheless there is greaterprecision of meaning in maps than in, for example, bullet point lists because every statement is givenmeaning by the actions that underlie it (in arrows) and the outcomes that indicate purpose (out arrows).
 Advantages, disadvantages, problems and issues with Cognitive Mapping,Causal Mapping and Oval Mapping
The cognitive mapping technique is one route to beginning the process of uncovering what the groupsemergent strategy is. Cognitive mapping is used as a small part of a group process approach to strategymaking. Cognitive mapping is introduced because it can be the most effective method of surfacing thereal strategic issues that the organisation will expect to address, and so it is usually the best way of detecting the emergent strategy of the organisation. However, it is inevitably more time consuming thanstarting with a group workshop. Cognitive mapping links ideas and issues together in a logical anddynamic way, in a structure resembling a spiders web. Thus it has the major advantage of generating a

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