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Short Wardley Mapping Intro

Wardley Mapping is a framework for visualizing your environment so that you can make better decisions. Below, you will find a very short introduction to it (less than 2 minute read):

  1. Components

  2. Dependencies

  3. Anchor

  4. Evolution

  5. Pipelines

  6. Examples

  7. Taking Action

Components

Any situation-relevant thing can be a component. Simon Wardley differentiates between Activities, Practices, Data & Knowledge.

 

Activities are what you do, Practices - how you do it. The difference is very subtle.

Brewing a coffee will be an activity when you think about the outcome (making a hot, tasty liquid) - and a practice (if you think about the process of using a coffee machine).

In practice, if something is important, it deserves a symbol on a map.

Components can be broken down into smaller components. There is no right granularity level, only a design choice. You decide which element is right for your story.

If you get it wrong, you will probably learn - there is no way to skip this part.

Dependencies

Components might depend on each other. Usually, a component which is higher on the map depends on a component that is lower on the map.

Image on the right shows a dependency that should read "Component A" depends on "Component B".

On a map, you do not usually write "depends on", and you put dependencies only when you think they are important.

Dependencies

Anchor

A map needs to start somewhere.

It is a good practice (and a mapping convention) to start with:

(a) determining the situation you want to influence. Some people use the phrase 'battle at hand'.

(b) identifying key stakeholders and their needs. Mapping book mentions 'users', but map examples reveal all sorts of stakeholders being listed.

When you get stakeholders and their needs, you can use dependencies to identify relevant components, and create a visualisation of your environment.

Evolution

Evolution is a horizontal axis.

 

Left hand-side is totally unpredictable and rare, right hand side - well-known and ubiquitous.

Use the table below to quickly position all components in the right place of the map.

Again, there is no right or wrong positioning. All that matters is whether your perception of the reality is right for making decision. If it is not, you will discover it soon - and better plan for it.

Type / Stage of Evolution
Stage I
Stage II
Stage III
Stage IV
Knowledge
Concept
Hypothesis
Theory
Widely Accepted
Data
Unmodelled
Divergent
Convergent
Modelled
Practices
Novel
Emerging
Good
Best
Activities
Genesis
Custom
Product + Rental Services
Commodity + Utility Services

Pipelines

Sometimes, there are many similar ways to accomplish the same thing. Think about marketing - you can use advertisement in press, in Google, you can contract influencers or animate communities. You can sponsor events or do product placement.

Full representation would look like this:

An example of a simple requirement chain.

But you might use a pipeline to simplify the notation, and then you get something like this:

Expanded pipeline.

Map Examples

The gallery below contains examples of maps that Simon and his research groups created in 2023. Check them out!

Note two things:

1. How they reveal what authors' assumptions about what is relevant.

2. How unactionable those maps are without the broader context and problem definition.

Taking Action

You make a map to take better-informed decisions.

A map alone does not offer you any competitive advantage.

To utilize the value of mapping, you need to invest time in analyzing the environment and visualizing your findings.

In previous sections, you have seen that how you draw a map is a design choice, and that you will make mistakes.

So, when you have a working map, you need to act.

 

The easiest action is talk to someone and verify your perception.

The right action is to take a bet on improving your situation while acknowledging it might not be a right action.

Then, learn, rinse, and repeat!

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