Concept maps are an intuitive way to represent a system. Use it to show complex relationships between parts of a system in an easily readable way.
When to use it?
Frame: Concept maps help you to frame the system. Use it early in framing to make sense of complex relationships in a system and to see the big picture.
How to do it?
Brainstorm a list of key concepts (nouns).
Put the most important concept in the middle of the map. This may move later but provides a starting point.
Add new concepts as they link to existing concepts on the map.
Draw arrows and include 1-2 words to create a sentence linking the concepts.
Tell the story of what your map means.
This activity works best with 1-5 people, but can be performed in groups of up to 10 people.
30 minutes to an hour.
Pros and Cons
- Shows complexity in an intuitive way.
- Because each node-link-node connection forms a sentence, even people who did not create the map can make sense of it.
- Concept maps show relationships but they do not show dynamics.
- Concept maps become less readable with size – they work best with about 10-15 nodes unless significant effort is put into the information design.
- If you brainstorm the concepts onto post-it notes, you can move the nodes around while you are creating the map.