EL Maps™
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EL Maps™

"EL Maps are more than a tool.
They are a blueprint for how living systems learn,
and reflect recent research findings in neurobiology and cognitive science."

- Arie de Geus

Emergent Learning helps a group improve the quality of its thinking about how to overcome the key challenges it faces, and to build a strong link between what it is thinking and what it is doing in practice. The EL Map is a visual tool that helps a group articulate its best thinking about what it will take to succeed, develop a plan to test that thinking in practice, track results, and produce a body of higher quality lessons learned.

EL Maps have stood the test of application in a wide range of organizations:

  • Convening peers to compare lessons learned across organizations or geographies
  • Using lessons from a current initiative to correct course
  • Using lessons from a past project to inform planning for the next one
  • Improving the quality of “lessons learned” by identifying trends across multiple projects or events
  • Building the business case for a course of action by collecting and comparing past successes and failures

EL Maps may vary in format — from a map sketched on the back of an envelope,  to a big chart on the wall, to online maps for dispersed networks. The visual structure of an EL Map helps a group think through what it already knows about a core challenge based on its experience to date and to translate that knowledge into a testable hypothesis.

ELMap quadrants

This cycle of thinking and action sets in motion a natural process of learning and adapting. As a group’s thinking is tested, refined, adapted and reapplied, it becomes robust knowledge about how to tackle a challenge that affects the group’s work results.  Read about the principles and structure of EL Maps.

EL Map Matrix

The inevitable result is improved performance, and the creation of an "engine" which, over enough revolutions, builds real confidence in the team's ability to learn their way through any challenge. Learning from experience becomes learning through experience.

EL Map is scalable for application across multiple situations, such as those experienced by a network.
For growing know-how across a network, EL Maps create a common structure and language for sharing insights and finding patterns across projects, functions and geographies.

A common complaint about “Lessons Learned” is that they really aren’t learned. Because they are difficult to communicate, the quality of lessons “learned” varies, and not everyone agrees with what the real lessons are. The EL Map helps groups discover the lessons that truly matter, and to ”peel the onion” to uncover deeper knowledge through continuous application and testing in real work. 


Click here for a printable fact sheet on Emergent Learning and Signet's EL Maps. Signet provides design consultation, facilitation, training and coaching to help our clients build their capacity to learn, using EL Maps as a foundation (contact us for more information). Information specifically about the use of EL Maps in philanthropies and nonprofits is available at Signet's

EL Map is a trademark of Signet Research & Consulting LLC.

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