Dialogue Mapping examples

From Faster Than 20

This is an example of a Dialogue Mapping process for the question: How can I lose 20 pounds? It should hopefully serve as a way to compare and contrast Dialogue Mapping with other forms of concept mapping.

Dialogue Mapping is a graphic facilitation technique that is based heavily on inquiry. The key to good Dialogue Mapping is asking the right questions. The map itself helps facilitate the process.

We start by asking the core question, and we very quickly converge on two strategies: Eating less and moving more.

The natural followup question is: How? Or, more specifically, what are the strategies for doing so?

File:Dmap-weight loss-1.jpg

At this point, you might just start brainstorming strategies and looking at commonalities between the two lists. In this case, I've chosen to help focus the dialog by trying to uncover examples of past success and failures. You can see these questions on the appropriate place on the map.

This is also a good opportunity to reframe the conversation and refactor the map. What you really want to know are the root causes for why you behave a certain way. So I refactored the map accordingly:

File:Dmap-weight loss-2.jpg

Asking this question shifts the conversation away from strategies (or solutions) and toward a discussion of root causes. You can see how the map visually facilitates that process by drawing your attention to the core question. You can also see how Dialogue Mapping generally goes from left-to-right as conversation progresses.

You can imagine how this map might help both facilitate a quality discussion and also capture the outcomes of that discussion. However, at some point, you or even one of the participants might be tempted to ask an even more fundamental question: Why do you want to lose weight in the first place?

In the Dialogue Mapping world, this is known as a "Left-Hand Move," because you instead of going from left-to-right, you are moving the conversation to the left. This visual shift emphasizes the fundamental nature of the question, as depicted below.

File:Dmap-weight loss-3.jpg

Answering this question may simply make the reasons for losing weight explicit, thus creating Shared Understanding and alignment. However, it may also uncover faulty reasoning. Maybe you don't need to lose weight? Maybe there are other issues you need to work through?


The core value of Dialogue Mapping is that it helps you identify and explore key questions. This is not a logic model, nor does it attempt to be. It's also highly contextual. If you do this exercise with two different groups, you might get two completely different maps. The value of this process is building shared understanding and alignment with the group by making implicit thinking explicit.

It also tells a story, because you can go from left-to-right to follow the narrative. Note the narrative is not necessarily the order in which the group discussed these topics, but the order in which these topics make the most sense.