Gigamapping: coming up with compelling Problem Statements

Gigamapping is a Systems Design technique that is meant to visualize relationships, causality, and complexity from multiple perspectives and at multiple scales. This step is essential to the design process, so that we can implement (or create or build) interventions which attempt to be more conscious of how they interact and influence a system.

I have been studying Design Research and Systems Thinking methods to help lead a group from literal thinking to metaphorical thinking to abstract thinking. Over the past few months, I have hosted, facilitated, and attended several workshops, focus groups, and events to learn about various research methods for products, public services, organizational strategy, group-problem solving, and creative brainstorming. Below are a few takeaways I've learned from practicing and observing research techniques.

Source: Move NY Plan, 2014

An excerpt from "How to GIGA-map"

Don’t talk too much — talk, write and draw: Especially in groups, some people tend to become entangled in verbal discussions and then fall into old patterns of doing things. They discuss instead of doing the mappings. The discussions might be interesting, but they are wasted effort because nothing is registered, processed, designed and related to the map. The best way of developing such discussions and turning them into something new is to ask the participants to document their discussions and map it out on the paper. Having a five-minute talking ban can be an efficient way to turn the dynamics from talking to talking-mapping.

I noticed that this "rule of thumb" is easier to implement in among groups of people who have worked together and view each other as part of a team. A few tricks that have helped me facilitate participants who have never worked together before include playing music or soundscapes, making sure everyone has a set of markers and pens, using large sheets of paper and surfaces to ensure that each participant has ample space to sketch out their thoughts.

Another common constraint to Gigamapping with stakeholders is scheduling enough time to journey through the process of linear and individual thinking towards complex and collective thinking. When using this technique for Market or Product research, this problem can be addressed by offering a stipend. In cases where there is a small budget, I would recommend providing generous refreshments and treats to participants that can create a social dynamic that can bring diverse perspectives together. I also recommend learning a few facilitation techniques based off of cognitive behavioral psychology, empathy and listening, play therapy, and the Systems Thinking Playbook.

After conducting five gigamapping workshops last Fall, I have refined and reframed my central questions, in anticipation of prototyping design interventions that can really address areas of causality and relationships between various scales, signals, boundaries, and domains within the system

My next edit will include evidence-based statements from my research that represent causality and hypothesize areas of interventions.

Read more about my process on my group blog

If you want to see a ton of cool data visualizations of maps, check out Viewing NYC!

Further Reading on Gigamapping:

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