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Process Tempo Insights

  • Phil Meredith

Concept Models vs. Concept Maps

In the 1970s Joseph Novak (wiki) introduced us to the idea of using visuals to help encourage the capture and sharing of knowledge. His approach was based on the idea of a "Concept Map" which was a visual learning aid designed to take complex subject matter and make it easier to understand. He stressed the way in which concepts relate in these maps are just as important as the concepts themselves.

(Image courtesy of wikipedia:

Later, he and his followers brought the idea of Concept Maps to the business world with the goal of making complex environments much simpler to understand. Novak's approach went beyond just the diagram. Having a philosophy and set of principals on how to develop these visuals was also critically important. This is captured in his book: Learning, Creating and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations, 1998 (Amazon).

One of the struggles the early Concept Map pioneers faced was the growing and ever evolving environment that the business world represented. They soon had to adapt their approach and philosophy to cope. Sketches of concept maps would become very large which meant they had to be divided. They were forced to adjust for temporality. In the end, their models became more and more complex and it was complexity they were fighting to overcome in the first place.

Fortunately for us at Process Tempo LLC, we have the benefit of being able to leverage state-of-the-art technology which didn't exist when the idea of Concept Mapping was born. We apply a similar approach to leveraging constructivism but in new and intuitive ways.

To quote the wiki on Constructivism: "humans make meaning in relation to the interaction between their experiences and their ideas". In short, we learn far better when we mix visuals, audio clues and hands-on efforts versus simply listening. Like Novak, we try to capture knowledge by constructing visual flows.

With Process Tempo™ one can create Concept Maps in the purest of Novakian approaches using our Concept Model interface. We then capture this knowledge in a database for later retrieval either by retrieving the visual of the model itself or via our built-in search engine. The CMAP tool ( which Novak championed was and still is limited to the former.

The goal of Process Tempo™ is to collect knowledge in a centralized fashion and to make this knowledge reusable. To achieve this we require a certain level of consistency which is where we differ from the Novak Concept Map. If all we did was allow the capture of free-form concepts our database would become extremely cluttered and difficult to retrieve data from.

Here is an example: when looking at the painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci how would you describe her? Let's say you described her as a grinning young lady. Now fast-foward a few years and let's say you forgot the name of the painting but you remembered it was one of a smiling woman. So you search "smiling woman" and guess what? You cannot find the image.

In the Novakian Concept Mapping world concept maps are all about simplicity and learning. Not so much about reuse and classification. In fact, the content of a Concept Map is meant to be free flowing. In the business world classification and reuse is critical.

So in an ode to Joseph Novak we have created a similar but more modern approach to Concept Mapping which we call Concept Modeling and as with CMAP, we intend to offer this free of charge. For the business world which requires greater consistency we add modern constraints enabling our users to create what we call Business Models.

An example of a Process Tempo™ Concept Model:


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