Recently I’ve been using a technique called Challenge Mapping. The technique frames problems as challenges which enables you to cut through negative thinking.

In a recent workshop my challenge was “How might I enable the UX team to synchronise their work”. After establishing the challenge you begin to diverge on a question such as “Why might we want to enable the UX team to synchronise their work”, in my example the reason why I want to synchronise their work is so that they are able to create a common set of features, functions and designs.

In the challenge map this is phrased as “How might we create a common set of features, functions and designs.” The secondary area of divergence is asking the “What’s stopping…” question. This narrows the original challenge into more task orientated sub-problems. In my example, what is stopping me from synchronising the team’s work is a lack of shared priorities. So in my challenge map this is phrased as “How might we create a set of shared priorities”.

I’ve found this exercise a very effective way to focus on what I need to do to meet a challenge. It enables you to understand the relationships and connections between challenges. Asking a “What’s stopping…” question is a great way of uncovering the obstacles that are in the way of resolving a problem. Similarly the “Why…” question can give clarity on what might be the next step on from meeting a challenge.

The image below is my complete challenge map that shows the original challenge “How might we enable the UX team to synchronise their work”. With everything below that being the “What’s stopping…” challenges and everything above the “Why…”.