Knowledge mapping

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Knowledge mapping is an assemblage aimed at exploring knowledge within organizations, by asking meaningful questions in a meaningful context. There are two types of mapping that can be used, through the combination of appropriate methods, the first is Decision mapping and the second is Dependency matrix. As such, it is an instantiation of the principles for managing knowledge.

Mapping knowledge at the right level of granularity is essential, so it can be radically repurposed (exaptation).

Name and history

Notes about the origin and subsequent developments of the assemblage.

The assemblage

Knowledge mapping is one of the three key pillars in the Field guide to managing complexity (and chaos) in times of crisis assessment.

Prior knowledge

List of concepts and necessary understanding to use the assemblage (it is OK to say none. This includes any key principles that need emphasising in this context. General principles are set out in in the facilitation article.

Key principles

Key concepts


Knowledge mapping methods
Assemblage methods
Method Type Use in assemblage
Decision mapping Core Generate the elements of the "meaningful context"
Executive problem identification Core
Decision map-process map comparison Optional Application of a general principle, according to which the comparison of method outputs with established rules and procedures is often a potential source of useful insights
Dependency matrix Core
Anecdote circles Alternative Alternative (complementary) to decision mapping, in context
Future backwards Alternative Alternative (complementary) to decision mapping, in context
Decision journaling Alternative Alternative (complementary) to decision mapping, in context
Learning points Alternative Alternative (complementary) to decision mapping, in context
3-points Core Other Cynefin® contextualization methods also applicable
Exaptive triggers Uses output

Assemblage flows / Combining methods

  • Hexie approach – methods to be combined and re-combined
  • Typical flow/s - fundamental phases/parts to the process with notes re which Methods are used where. May be graphical especially if not linear.
  • Special cases / alternative flows
  • Any special heuristics and principles for combining and recombining methods

Facilitation skills required

Facilitation skills required - please note any special skills or complex facilitation experience and if so, what this should focus on. General principles are set out in in the facilitation article.

Do's and don'ts

Simple bulleted list including common mistakes

Virtual running

Default is to state that it cannot be until we have developed and tested practice. If it can be run virtually then we describe it here.

It is acceptable to add a third column to the workflow if needed

Related methods and approaches

This section is intended for third party approaches that may help gain insight into the method. Any methods that are on the wiki should be referenced in the above sections.

Method card material

This material will be extracted for the method cards

Possible symbols or illustrations

Front page description

Knowledge mapping is an assembly of methods designed to map what we know against the strategic and operational needs of the organisation.

Back of card summary

Knowledge mapping is an assembly of methods that enable the identification of key knowledge objects to be plotted against critical decision-making and strategic needs. Knowledge mapping aims to reveal knowledge within organisations by asking meaningful questions in a meaningful context, so it can be radically repurposed (exaptation). This is a composite technique using multiple methods. In a typical instance, people first track and map their decisions, along with the information and data flows involved. Those decision points are analysed and unpacked in terms of the various knowledge items that are utilised, identifying knowledge assets that are available for repurposing.

How can it be used?

for diagnosis

for analysis/understanding

for intervention


Articles and books

  • Dave Snowden, The ASHEN Model: an enabler of action (Part One of Basics of Organic Knowledge Management), Originally published in Knowledge Management, April 2000 Vol 3 Issue 7 edited 2004
  • Dave Snowden, Knowledge Elicitation: indirect knowledge Discovery (Part Two of Basics of Organic Knowledge Management), Originally published in Knowledge Management, June 2000 Vol 3 Issue 9 edited 2004
  • Nonaka and Takeuchi, The Knowledge Creating Company, Oxford, 1995, ISBN 0-19-509269
  • Polanyi The Tacit Dimension, republished by Doubleday & Company, 1983, ISBN 0-8446 5999-1
  • Gilbert Probst, Steffen Raub & Kai Romhardt, Wissen managen - Wie Unternehmen ihre wertvollste Ressource optimal nutzen, 2. Auflage, FAZ Frankfurt, Gabler Verlag, Wiesbanden, 1998, ISBN 3-409-29317-5
  • Dave Snowden "I only know what I know when I need to know it - embracing the active management of tacit knowledge", Knowledge Management Ark Publications, March 1998
  • Dave Snowden "A Framework for Creating a Sustainable Programme", CBI Guide to Knowledge Management, London, Caspian Publishing/Confederation of British Industry, 1998, Republished in Knowledge Management Year Book, Butterworth Heinemann, April 1999
  • Aibel, J. and Snowden, D., "Intellectual Capital Deployment: A new perspective" Focus on Change Management, Sptember 1998
  • Erickson, T. Smith, D. N., Kellogg, W. A., Laff, M. R., Richards, J. T., and Bradner, E., "Socially Translucent Systems: Social Proxies, Persistent Conversation, and the Design of 'Babble'", in Human Factors in Computing Systems: The Proceedings of CHI '99, ACM Press, 1999
  • Shah, Idries, The exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin & The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin, double volume Octagon Press, London 1985
  • Dave Snowden, Story Telling and Other Organic Tools for Chief Knowledge Officers and Chief Learning Officers, pp 237-252 in Bonner, D., Leading Knowledge Management and Learning, ASTD, 2000
  • Stone, Allucquère Roasanne, The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age, MIT Press, 1996
  • Tolstoy, L., What is Art and Other Essays on Art, Oxford University Press, London, 1899

Blog posts


Link to case articles here or third party material