No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The Big Idea: Perception Mapping


In the third of six articles on innovation techniques, Brian Campbell explores how a perception map can give you a new perspective on problems and issues.

This article is adapted from Darrell Mann’s Hands On Systematic Innovation for Business and Management* and describes a simple but very effective tool. Darrell has developed and refined the flowscape methodology described in DeBono’s Water Logic, Viking 1993.

The method in summary
a) List as many perceptions as you like about a situation you are facing. Label them A, B, C etc. Typically you should aim for a minimum of 10 perception statements.

b) For each perception, pick one (and only one) of the others on the list that you feel it ‘leads to’ or 'flows to'. Put the letter of this second perception after the first.

c) Now construct a diagram using pen and paper. It might take a few goes depending on how many perceptions you have. Using post-it notes can help at this stage.

d) Look for collector points – a number of perceptions lead to the same point. Look for loops and for chains. These are the important issues to address. Any perceptions on the edges of the diagram are likely to be less important.

The example below should make things clearer.

Case Study - Pressure from the Boss

Alison has recently been promoted to the position of manager of a successful branch of a large banking operation. Her boss (the VP) has hinted that Janice, one of her new staff, is underperforming and should be encouraged to leave. Alison finds out that Janice used to be very effective but is having domestic problems.

By listing each identifier (A-L) and perception, Alison can work out what that perception leads to (shown in brackets).

A VP wants Alison to force Janice to quit (H)
B Janice’s performance is poor (C)
C Janice’s performance adversely affects the morale of others I
D Janice is a single parent (B)
E Alison can empathise with Janice’s domestic situation (K)
F Janice’s children have learning difficulties (B)
G Alison needs to demonstrate success (H)
H Alison needs to gain the respect of the VP (L)
I Alison needs to gain the respect of other people in the department (G)
J Janice’s performance has been okay in the past (K)
K Alison wants to give Janice a chance to succeed (G)
L Alison wants to build a long term career at the company (I)

Note that perceptions A and K are in direct contradiction; a theme I discussed last month.

The resulting Perception Map for this particular problem is reproduced in Figure 1 below. There is a single loop made from four of the statements – G-H-L-I-G and two collector points K and B.
Figure 1: The Main Stakeholders in the Problem Situation

The link between the contradictions A and K are shown in Figure 2.

The loop observed in Figure 1 represents a self-re-enforcing loop relating to the role of department staff members and the VP helping towards Alison’s long-term success in the organisation. This is a useful insight that Alice might present to Janice.

Figure 2: Perception Chain Connecting the Two Conflicting Perceptions

The challenge of the conflict chain in Figure 2 is how to get to WIN-WIN – how to please the VP without sacking Janice. Perception H is the key. Alice can earn the VP’s respect by either sacking Janice or by demonstrating to the VP that Janice’s performance has improved. Armed with this information, Alice can approach Janice well prepared to offer her one last chance.

Perception Mapping becomes even more effective when there is a group of people with different perceptions of how to solve a given problem.

Each person will draw up perceptions on an individual basis. Once this is completed then all the perceptions are given a label. (If different people make the same perception, then it is only labelled once). Then, as a group, the links are made as before. Anyone is free to suggest a link, but the link is only made once all agree. The most powerful aspect of this process is that someone with a strong vested interest cannot impose their perceptions on the rest. The group as a whole decides the links and it is only when the diagram is drawn out that the most important perceptions emerge.

The most impressive aspect of this tool is that all the different perceptions of a group can be rationalised and resolved.

So perhaps try it alone and see what comes out, then with a group.

Some good questions

Staff become de-motivated because….

People don’t buy-in to change because….

We would be more successful if…..

Communications would be more effective if…..

Quality improvements could be achieved by…

In order to solve problems more effectively we should…

I would be very interested to know how you get on with it so please add a comment below or drop me a line at [email protected]

* Reference:


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!