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Wardley Mapping and the Feynman Technique: A Powerful Combination for Mastering Complexity


Wardley Mapping, unexpectedly, has found its most popular use as an implementation of the Feynman learning technique.

Using both practices together allows individuals to deconstruct and comprehend complex subjects effectively.

Let's diveinto who Richard Feynman was, what is his technique, and how it aligns with Wardley Mapping.

Who Was Richard Feynman?

Richard Feynman was an American theoretical physicist celebrated for his groundbreaking work in quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, and particle physics.

His contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics (QED) earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

But for many people admire Feynman not because of his achievements but because of his intellectual brilliance, lifelong cultivated curiosity and extraordinary communications skills that made him one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century.

In other words, Feynman could take any complex idea and explain it to a 12 years old in a way that they would understand.

What is the Feynman Technique?

The Feynman technique is a method Feynman used to grasp new and complex subjects quickly.

The technique comprises several steps:

1. Select What You Want to Learn

  • Write down all the concepts you know about the subject.

  • Learn about these concepts, adding to your knowledge and watching it grow.

2. Teach it to a Child

  • Explain the concepts as if teaching a child, using analogies and stories.

  • Write down simplified explanations, as writing aids reflection and learning.

  • This process tests your understanding—if you can consistently explain the concept to others, you have mastered it. If not, further effort is needed.

The Most Popular Application of Mapping

Based on a survey by Joaquin Pena Fernandez, solo mapping is the most popular application of Wardley Mapping.

This method parallels the Feynman technique in several ways:

Steps in Solo Mapping:

  1. Pick a Subject: Choose the topic you want to understand.

  2. Create a Concept Salad: Write down all the important concepts - this is not described in the book but this is how Simon uses mapping in his research process.

  3. Select Key Concepts: Identify the most critical concepts.

  4. Map the Concepts: Map these concepts (you can do this only if you know enough about the domain)

Comparing Wardley Mapping and Feynman Technique

Feynman Technique

Solo Mapping



Start with an empty sheet of paper

Start with an empty map

Both methods begin with a clean slate, allowing the learner to build from the ground up.

Getting Started

Write down everything you know about the subject

Create a word salad of the most important concepts

Both approaches involve documenting initial knowledge comprehensively.

Knowledge Expansion

Enhance understanding of concepts

Map most important concepts

Mapping includes patterns that simplify comprehension.

Success Criteria

Ability to explain the concept to others

Ability to create a map

Both check subjectives completness of understanding


Wardley Mapping, when utilized as an implementation of the Feynman technique, offers a structured and effective way to understand and act upon complex subjects.

It also provides users with patterns (which greatly enhance typical parallels people know) and channel user attention to key concepts (such as user needs).

Feynman Technique emphasises deep understanding of concepts, which mapping (and mappers) sometimes reduce to the labels on a map.

By using the combinations of Feynman's method and Wardley Mapping, individuals are getting the best of both worlds - fast, deep, actionable understanding of any topic they choose to explore.



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