Cognitive and Causal Maps in Information Management

Cognitive maps can be viewed as a summary of different mapping concepts based on an individual’s beliefs about a particular topic. In essence, a cognitive map refers to how a person can explain their environment and to what extent they understand it. It visualizes the individual perception of reality and thus represents personal information. This information is essential for a comprehensive assessment of corporate performance. Because it gathers detailed experience and information about company-specific internal and external factors.
Causal maps usually show individual understanding of the connection of events occurring at a particular time. In the context of the Project Manager, the causal mapping tool is suitable for displaying explicit company-specific information, as well as implicit information describing the effects of performance-related causes at the top goal of financial performance. Causal maps consist of nodes that can represent success factors related to control on the one hand, and arrows used to represent cause-effect relationships between these nodes on the other hand. The node where the path of an arrow begins is interpreted as the cause of the impact that is ultimately affected.
Cognitive and Causal Maps in Information ManagementThe effect is depicted through the node where the arrow ends at the end, and the direction of an arrow expresses putative causality. Therefore, a causal map can be interpreted as a cognitive map that describes the performance process in a company. However, while a cognitive map is always created from a single individual, a causal map can also represent cause-effect relationships as a collective result of several individuals. The factors involved can be measured directly and arise in this case. Otherwise, they are hidden and can be made operational with one or more selected dimensions. Measurable data can be transferred to an indicator system of strategic success production.

Development and Participation in Causal Mapping Approaches

A causal map based on local tacit knowledge can be created by a group of experts or by putting together individual maps of group members. After the development of individual causal maps, it may be a scientific goal to measure the differences between these maps. However, in the relevant literature approaches that target a particular form of combining individual maps are most preferred. Addition follows certain counting rules of factors and relationships indicated by arrows. Moreover, although there are group discussions and workshops to finalize a collective group map, such group gathering process can also be computer-aided. To understand the advantages of causal mapping, sufficient experts must be involved in the mapping process.
To create the map, one of the exploration techniques mentioned in the third chapter should be applied. Subsequently, the mapping process can be managed by an expert interviewed himself, with the support of qualitative software, only by an external researcher, a consultant, or a team. Ethnographic protocol commentary or interaction of external persons and company experts may also be included in this team. Ethnographic protocol interpretation and interactive mapping are the most relevant and applied mapping techniques that can be distinguished from each other and include essential features.
In addition, there is another approach that develops a causal map through group research without advancing any explanation technique. According to Akkermans and van Helden, experts are asked to create a single causal map collectively. The aim here is mainly to create a unified perspective on a group of experts through their own research. Through group research, different individual perceptions are summarized and structured to finally reach a common understanding of the problem.
Cognitive and Causal Maps in Information ManagementWhen reviewing the mapping procedures in the relevant literature, it is clear that the epistemological perspective is both comprehensive and far from a general approach. The steps taken individually differ from case to case. A mixture of various techniques is always conceivable and a clear distinction between the techniques documented is difficult to identify. How to make a map? The question often depends on the preferences and goals of the internal and external experts involved in the causal mapping process. Despite the map’s construction process, there are advantages and disadvantages that causal mapping provides.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Causal Mapping

The advantages of causal mapping are apparently related to the financial success of a company and the implementation of a strategy: causal mapping provides the transmissibility of some information and these are as follows:
• To reveal,
• Visualization,
• Performance,
Already in the early stages of exploration, the individuals involved develop a more comprehensive understanding of organizational performance and causes. They are invited to reflect on all processes in their company and can therefore distinguish between performance-related factors and less important ones. Moreover, the people concerned begin to reflect critically about their daily work and comply with the principles of preventive maintenance and performance measurement in their work. Including a sufficient number of experts from all departments of a company as participants in the mapping process strengthens the acceptance of the relevant system. During the implementation of this system, employees not only provide their causal information, they are also motivated to examine it.
Learning effects occur due to this reflex. Also, visualization through causal mapping causes focusing on the factors that have the greatest impact on the financial performance goal. It encourages different people in a company to think about it. Moreover, visualization creates a comprehensive understanding of the effects of certain actions as causes. In order to achieve better or even worse performance, the chains of cause and effect that exist become obvious. At the very least, the management of a company is equipped with a mapping tool that improves the communication of a vision, strategies, as well as goals and measures based on a common understanding of performance production. Through causal mapping, employees communicate about and become more aware of causal relationships. This contributes to the efficient management of the company.
Cause-and-effect relationships are categorized subjectively because they are primarily due to the experience and knowledge of the employees. Experts from different functional areas have an unequal perception of the process. Inconsistent results may arise when combining explained evaluations of cause and effect relationships from different subjective perspectives. It will therefore be necessary to gather or synthesize these partial perspectives into a sufficiently complex general causal relationship model.
Cognitive and Causal Maps in Information ManagementHowever, each aggregate of subjective statements can create biases because the relevant managers and employees specialize in their area of ​​responsibility and gather their experience there. The subjectivity of the statements may be due to factors such as organizational blindness, arrogance, satisfaction, degree of dissatisfaction, or motivation. Moreover, in the group meeting, participants can respond strategically in a way that does not disturb others. As a result, it is uncertain whether the most important causal relationships between factors will be identified. Instead, it becomes a situation in which less relevant success factors and relationships will be identified. All these difficulties must be overcome and a corrective to bias arising from subjective expressions must be offered.
Therefore, the multi-criteria DEMATEL method can be introduced as a technique that can reduce the amount of subjectivity while creating a causal map. Thus, it provides a transparent and repeatable mapping process among all participants, providing an inter-subject validity. The technique is more suitable for obtaining a balanced and balanced causal map suitable for the purpose of all employees. Group meetings and merging approaches cannot meet the needs of combining the diversity of different individual views. DEMATEL collects individual opinions more objectively.


Author: Ozlem Guvenc Agaoglu

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