Visual, Verbal and Relational Mapping in Risk Assessment

One of the foundations for SPoR is Semiotics. Understanding semiotics, semiosis, semantics, the semiosphere and semiology is essential for understanding culture (

Not so Safety.

Poor olde Safety is so locked into the delusions of measurement, myths of objectivity, binary mindset, behaviourism and scientism that it completely evades the power of subjectivity in visual, experiential and verbal knowing.

Not so SPoR.

At the heart of all learning in SPoR is semiotic learning. In SPoR we use so many visual learning, mapping and verbal relational tools to help critical thinking. And the power of this approach to learning receives amazing approval/feedback, especially in an industry consumed with engineering, numerics, metrics and text.

Recently in an education program in India we used the ancient method of the mandala ( to help leaders understand strategic, ethical and political dynamics in risk. You can see some of this group work at Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Figure 1. Group Conversation in Constructing Mandala


Figure 2. Another Mandala by a Group


Figure 3. Group Member Presenting Learnings from Mandala


Figure 4. Another Group Explains Their Mandala


The key focus of using this ancient artefact of culture (mandala is at least 65,000 in use) is to develop balance in dialectic between competing forces. One of the central foci of all we do in SPoR is helping create balance. At the opposite end of seeking balance stands the extremism and fundamentalism of zero.

Mandala is an excellent tool for helping leaders understand by-products, trade-offs and competing values in risk. This is how mandala works. However, there are no ‘rules’ for constructing a mandala. The visual, verbal and relational task seems to always generate something new in a group.

In many cases the visualisation of conversations enables further conversation and listening and this further enhances insight. Mandala is often used as a meditative, reflective and therapeutic tool.

In this case (leadership workshop) we helped the group of leaders tackle the ethical, political and strategic issues facing them in a current challenge/project. Then each group presented their mandala to each other thereby, working through the process three times. The session was so successful because it used visual, verbal and non-measurable approaches to conversation and learning.

This kind of methodology is common in many SPoR tools including: MiProfile, iCue, 1B3M, demythologising, wicked problem analysis, competing values framework, SPoR influences and SEEK.

There is nothing quite like learning SPoR methods to help you better understand and tackle risk and most important of all, its practical, positive and it works (

You too could discover what many organisations are discovering all over the globe, that SPoR helps strike the balance in tackling risk.

Keep your eyes out for a podcast on mandala to be released soon.

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