What is Causal Mapping?

Causal mapping is a proven technique for capturing and managing the detailed, sometimes delicate, information that often surrounds complex situations.

Causal mapping is a well known and trusted technique for capturing and structuring detailed information provided by individuals (in interviews) or groups (in workshops). It is most often used in problem solving, idea generation, decision making and strategy development.  The technique works by linking statements together using arrows that represent a causal relationship as shown below.

Diagram showing cause-effect relationship

By linking individual statements together we are literally creating a map of the ideas, issues, observations and aspirations relating to the subject matter being discussed.  Importantly, causal mapping captures the context of what it being said, rather than just the content. This means that we can always go back to any dissuasion and understand not only what was said buy why it was said.

These benefits make the causal mapping technique ideal for use in any kind of complex decision making process. This is why it is ideal for use in strategy creation which, if done properly, is a very complex process, generating a large amount of information which needs to be managed effectively.

To give you an idea of how complex these maps can be, it is not uncommon for a strategy model to contain thousands of interlinked concepts (statements) This means that it is important to be able to manage this complexity by analysing the information in the causal map in order to identify the key elements within the model.


There are many advantages to using Causal Mapping, including:

  • Structures thinking through capturing chains of argumentation
  • Presents information in a graphical rather than a linear format which allows it to be shared more easily
  • Allows a more objective stance to be taken by having people focus on creating and structuring information
  • Enables complex information such as wisdom, knowledge and experience to be captured
  • Helps manage complexity by allowing the information that has been captured to be analysed and structured into a clear strategy model.
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