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Context Map


Creative tools > Context Map

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use the Landscape Map to map out the big picture at the start of a creative project or session.

Use it to explore the scope of a project or session.

Use it to explain to others the scope of what is in and what is out of scope.



  X        Long



X          Psychological



      X    Group


How to use it

Start with the problem

Write down the problem in the middle of a large sheet of paper. The word 'problem', here, means the general area in which you are being creative (it may just be a 'target' more than a 'problem').

You can also do it on a wall, using a white-board, brown paper and Post-it Notes.

Identify key themes

Identify key themes or domains of interest about the problem. These don't have to be all themes -- just those that are of particular interest or concern.

Write these around the problem statement, spreading them evenly around.

Keep the number of these to about six or less. If you have more, cluster some together (you can always break out the sub-items at the next level. If you are not sure which to choose, write down as many as you can on a separate page and then select those which you will put on the map.

Join the themes to the problem statements with lines. This shows the logical connection. If you like you can use arrows, but these are not necessary.

 Identify attributes of themes

When you have identified themes, break each one down into further attributes, joining these to the relevant theme with lines or arrows.

Use it to think and communicate

When you have created the Context Map, use it to think and reflect about the problem situation. Change the map as necessary to better reflect the domain of interest.

You can also use it as a way of visually communicating to others the area in which you are being creative.


My problem is in setting up a new retail business. I thus write 'Retail' in the middle of the page.

I identify a number of themes, including: Competition, Customers, Deliveries, Storage, Shop layout, Purchasing, Marketing and Employees. From these, I choose Customers, Competition, Marketing and Purchasing for further breakdown. I write these around the word 'Retail' and join them to 'Retail' with arrows.

I then identify attributes for each one in the same manner. For Competition, I include Location, Pricing, Advertising, Products.

How it works

The problem map is a hierarchical breakdown that creates a tree structure of the contextual domain of the problem.

As with other trees, it works by breaking down a domain into its constituent parts.

By doing this with the problem context, it can be very helpful in clarifying what is in the project and what is not.

See also

Lotus Blossom, Problem Statement


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