Walking into the Global Advantage office, one is greeted by the colourful presence of ecosystem maps surrounding a group of research analysts. Visually appealing and data-rich, these maps are strategic tools for any department, associations, agency, or business aiming to get a comprehensive look at their ecosystem. I sat down with our executive members, including the CEO, Dave Watters, to discuss the value and uniqueness of the ecosystem maps.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a map is worth a whole story. Traditional data-reporting platforms, like reports and infographics, are often limited in their scope of presentation; they lack either the engaging visuals or focus too narrowly on one sector. Much like pieces in a puzzle, individual organizations are only a small part of the whole.
Ecosystem maps combine the visual-appeal of infographics and the insightfulness of hundred-page reports into a system-wide perspective platform that displays the working relationships and linkages between stakeholders at different levels in an ecosystem. “One looks at the opportunities of the whole and who are at risk in the system. This presents a unique way for organizations to see which relationships they need to strengthen,” says Dave. Maps are completed puzzles, and they help organizations identify their roles in complex web of stakeholders and institutions in the whole system. Thus, maps allow for greater relational and substantive thinking about the flows between structures, the rising stories and trends in the industry, and the key decision-makers/institutions.
Strong data is the bedrock of the mapping process; stories and trends are illustrated by the data. We utilize and incorporate our in-house data engine, compiled over 15 years from a variety of international, national, and private sources, to create a data-rich environment for our maps, identifying the structures and flows of money, people, information, and materials. Created on an input-output basis and displaying flows and trends, maps are not static media. When flows change, our team analyzes why the change occurs, and which institutions are most affected.
Mapping is a co-creation process that holds both sides accountable, and it does not come without challenges. Each map is a unique tool sustained by interests of the clients and reliability of the data. When clients are unable to identify the problems or lack the necessary data to sustain their story, it is our job to take a step back and investigate the key decisions or problems they wish to solve. Unsatisfactory metrics and faulty or unavailable data require us to obtain our own data through interviews and surveys. Stories are only as good as the legitimacy of the data and only then can we tailor the maps to our clients’ needs.
Compared to the current maps, our earliest versions were visually simple, static, and overly focussed on institutions that neglected the importance of in-depth flows, relationships, and achievable outcomes. And like everything else, our maps will be improved further by complementing new technologies and flows. We aim to automate the data-updating process with AI, develop Dancing Data to animate trends, and leverage the use of cloud to shift maps onto greater digital platforms. A paper map is only the tip of the iceberg, each figure and number contain the necessary embedded links for further research.
Maps are strategic systems that define and solve problems to help you pinpoint opportunities. Maps are what Dave calls, “magic.”
Contact us to see how our maps can help you strategically navigate your ecosystem.