Maps and globes

by Stacey Mason ([email protected]) 191 views 

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin’s work. Seth is an author, entrepreneur, and most of all, a teacher. His one-liner bio simply reads “30 years of projects.” He’s written 18 bestselling books and has over 1 million readers for his more than 7,000 daily blog posts. Think about that for a minute. Every day for nearly 20 years he’s published a blog post. That is extraordinary.

While he muses about any number of things, he mostly challenges the status quo. And I think that’s why I’m drawn to him so much — for the challenge. Because he’s forever wanting us to think in broader terms. Not just in terms of what’s in front of us, but what it means in terms of the bigger picture.

I like this blog post titled “Maps and Globes.” Godin writes, “If someone needs directions, don’t give them a globe. It’ll merely waste their time. But if someone needs to understand the way things are, don’t give them a map. They don’t need directions, they need to see the big picture.”

I keep this maps and globes analogy top of mind. It’s the reminder to think in terms of context rather than just the deep dive of a discipline. Or said differently, what’s the frame of reference in relation to the field of study?

There’s currently a big push in education to pursue certain (hard) STEM disciplines at the expense of other (softer) arts and humanities disciplines. Going back to metaphors and navigation, the current narrative suggests that when you come to the fork in the road — that deciding moment when a choice of majors is required — you should move toward all hard skills. But what if it’s not a fork in the road but rather a T?

At the T you’re deep in your chosen discipline (vertical), while also understanding the broader context or implications of your discipline across various fields of study — meaning, the horizontal viewpoint. The T design suggests all disciplines are necessary: the hard skills and the soft skills; STEM and humanities. Go deep (vertical) in the discipline that drives your natural curiosity and fuels your soul. Go broad (horizontal) in a range of fields so that you can understand your discipline in terms of the broader context.

The T analogy makes much more sense to me. It highlights the value of having a frame of reference in relation to your field of study. It enables you to think in the broadest terms possible. We have what’s in front of us and what it means in terms of the bigger picture. It’s maps and globes. The map is the way; the globe is the context.

Far too often this education discussion becomes an either/or contest. Go left or go right at the fork. We pursue one path at the expense of another. We’d be far better served if we thought in terms of interdisciplinary connectivity. Learning application at the intersection of the T. By combining our discipline specific knowledge with the perspectives from multiple fields of study we achieve higher-level understanding because our application crosses boundaries.

And if there’s one thing we need more of in this hyper-connected world it is more understanding of what lives at the intersections. In the T model, maps and globes coexist.

Ancora Imparo … (Still, I am learning).

Stacey Mason is the founder of The Improv Lab, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information is available at or by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.