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Journey map

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Above: a section of the innovation journey map comparing the 4 labs’ innovation processes, 2017. Click to enlarge. 

Why use it?

The purpose of a journey map is to gain a holistic and shared understanding of a new or existing path (or process) followed by your target customers/ beneficiaries and your fellow staff who interact with a particular aspect of your work which needs attention.

It could also be used in cases where you are comparing approaches - for example, you are convening different people that are trying to achieve the same thing, and you want to have a conversation around process.

They can be used, and re-used, at any stage - design, implementation, review - they can actually be a key part of the design - especially for co-creating collaboratively with participants.

What is it?

A journey map can be as simple as drawing out, on a whiteboard, paper or post-its, the main steps taken by participants through a process. The idea is that it’s interactive - you do create it together as a team - you agree or create the language as you if it’s there’s not already well used terms for stages in the journey. Digital versions can be created as a record but are not as useful as the physical version and the conversation generated.

Watch out for ‘aha’ moments when one of the team says: ‘oh we weren’t doing it like that!’ or ‘oh I see now why we need this step’ or ‘but if we do it like this, look the participant has to wait X weeks until they hear from us, Y could have happened in the meantime’. This conversation is more valuable than the finished map.

You can create ‘swim lanes’ of the parallel journeys taken by your team or by other teams or external organisations to show the dependencies and effects between your journeys, or just to compare. You can layer on details such as systems or time taken and other facts. You can add on ‘pain points’ to get an idea of actual or potential barriers.

A journey map should go only to the level of detail of fact and feeling first that’s relevant and second as time allows to feasibly achieve the desired start-to-end perspective. It’s a simple but powerful tool which we use all the time and readily translates to any situation with a flow.

How we used it.

For the DEPP Innovation Labs, we created a journey map to compare the innovation processes that each of the labs were taking from the set up of the labs and their first calls for innovations through selection, development and then creating or finding sustainable models for the innovations and also the labs themselves.

Above: a view of the innovation journey map for just the Udhvabani lab, Bangladesh.

We mapped out headings of the innovation journey on a wall and asked each team to put their planned journey on index cards then place on the relevant place on the journey map on the wall. Our first learning was that we needed a long wall!

We then had some discussion to compare and contrast; to learn from each other and consider adapting. Where this discussion resulted in a change of plan, we created a ‘pivot’ card to record the previous step and the new idea.

The above pictures are samples of the actual map - it was too big to fit on to any one photo or drawing. This summary, below, helps to draw out insights such as - the first part of the lab’s innovation process had been well thought through - the final crucial stage of sustainability hadn’t been.

Feedback / our own reflections.

We used the journey map tool the least but it was used at a crucial stage, early at the point where they had just begun implementing but after design. This meant that there was opportunities still to change their process - to pivot, double down, stop or just continue. It set in place a pattern of thinking which each lab could take back - whether physically to their team wall or just in their minds, and think about the innovation process as a big picture - where are we heading? Is it working? Should we adapt?

It also created a shared understanding for the Labs and the programme staff - crucially within this understanding was language - we all knew what each Lab was calling comparative stages in their journeys. This was important in future conversations when learning was shared and cross-Lab discussions occurred e.g. on ethics or child protection. We had confidence that whilst there were differences in our terms and languages, there was enough commonality between us to tackle problems and share solutions together.

For example, Maarifa Kona lab was 6 months old and had been focusing on the lab set up compared to other labs already identifying problems and making calls for ideas. By looking at other Labs’ process and progress, they got an idea of how to move on. The journey map was a tool to kick off conversations between labs - the tool was useful but it was the conversation that was really valuable.

We learnt that some people liked the visual and interactive nature of this exercise - for some it was the first time they had seen their lab’s 2 year journey visually represented. It uncovered that not everyone had read and understood the same things about the programme design. Crucially the feedback was that it exposed assumptions about innovation process.

Dan McClure encouraged the teams to think about sustain/scale from the beginning - by seeing this as the end of a journey, the teams then were encouraged to figure out what they will need to start now with innovation participants in order to be ready to explore scaling later.

Improvements and recommendations.

The main limitation of journey maps is that it can reinforce a linear view of interactions, especially where you’re trying to create something iterative with feedback loops. These loops can be visualised but it always needs some imagination to think of any visual of events as more of a dynamic, living flow and less of a pre-determined, unchangeable code. For example, community engagement was less of a stage and more of an ongoing, sometimes ad hoc, piece of work which is hard to represent in a journey map.

One of the feedback points was that we didn’t explain ‘the why’ enough at the beginning - especially the early sustain/scale steps that could be added in. With this and all the lessons learned from the DEPP Labs programme, the innovation processes should be updated before re-use. With that we would recommend doing sessions on sustainable business models and innovation ecosystems before doing the journey map exercise in order to get the destination more firmly in mind first. If this sounds too heavy, even a lightweight vision of sustainability might be enough, with a more developed versions of these sessions as the labs get more familiar with their territory. Everything can be iterated!

Interested in seeing the journey maps and pivots of the DEPP Labs four innovation labs? Check them out here.

Keep reading:

DEPP Labs key document DEPP Innovation Labs

  • by Zofia Piotrowicz