Senior executives need better mental maps to navigate our unevenly globalized world. Although a wide variety of metrics show that just 10 to 25 percent of economic activity is truly global, executives disproportionately embrace visions of unbounded opportunities in a borderless world, where distances and differences no longer matter.
Rooted maps correct a misperception reinforced by conventional ones: that the world looks the same regardless of the viewer’s vantage point or purpose. In the real world, though, geographic distance and differences in culture and policy matter. To better reflect this reality, rooted maps depict the world from a specific perspective and with a particular purpose in mind.
They do so by adjusting the sizes or positions of countries in relation to a specific home country, while otherwise maintaining familiar shapes and spatial relationships, which help us fit these maps into our existing mental models. Saul Steinberg’s famous depiction of the world as seen from New York City1 is a humorous example, but more data-driven versions—particularly those drawn at the industry or company levels—have serious business applications. Fortunately, the technology for creating such maps has improved substantially in recent years, so executives can now have custom ones generated with minimal time and expense.