Dedicated to Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems


 “Your guidance in showing me how to apply issue mapping was pivotal on more than one occasion over the past year in helping people around me find their way through confusion to solvable and usable solutions. Thank you for that.“
Neil McEvoy
Change Engineer
Former President of
Providence Healthcare

"A marvelous, fun and stimulating webinar series. . . The CogNexus webinars are master classes in issue and dialogue mapping and Jeff Conklin is the mappers' "Yo-Yo Ma."
David Price

“Dialogue and Issue Mapping have had a profound impact on how I go about working with my clients and the quality of the outcomes that are produced. The Issue Mapping workshop is an essential piece to developing proficiency in dealing with the problem wickedness that afflicts organisations of all kinds. I urge anyone who is remotely interested in problem solving, project management and collaboration to attend this workshop. You will be able to take the skills that you learn and apply it to almost any situation or discipline. Jeff and Lizzie are both excellent teachers and are very accessible and happy to answer questions during and between lessons. In short – it works!”
Paul Culmsee
Seven Sigma Business Solutions

“…the information and practice on IBIS - as well as how to think more logically - was very valuable. I'll be a smarter and better thinker because of the course and it will definitely help me to help groups think better! Thanks so much!”
Kelcy Benedict
Facilitation Plus, Inc.

“For 15 years my company has been involved in providing technical decision support to government and corporations. Our core competency is helping companies choose between alternatives, and communicate the whys of their decision to others. We have always felt that we did not have an adequate framework for capturing and supporting the early part of the decision process - from the time an organization first realizes that they have a decision opportunity, through their process to the point that they recognize possible solutions and are ready to choose amongst them. We were intrigued by Jeff Conklin’s work in Issue Mapping. Taking the Issue Mapping Webinar Series has made us confident that Issue Mapping is the answer for us, and the Series gave us a full immersion in both the principals and techniques of Issue Mapping. The interaction with other professionals taking the Webinar Series, the well structured homework and prompt and detailed feedback from the Cognexus team provided a very fast and efficient learning experience. The Webinar Series was time and money well spent.”
Philip Murphy
CEO, InfoHarvest Inc.

“I was put on a project for two days very recently where I helped lead a 2 day client engagement with a colleague that hadn't had much experience running such sessions. At the end of the 2 day requirements gathering sessions the client commented on how impressed he was with the use of the collaborative display and how logical and easy the whole process was. When my colleague presented our proposed plan and approach some weeks later, the client once again reiterated his praise for the session and how open and collaborative it was. Dialogue Mapping keeps winning for me the more and more that I use it.”
Andrew Jolly, IT Consultant and Issue Mapping Webinar Graduate

"I found the process both challenging and worthwhile. One of the real highlights for me in this course was gaining further insights into the different ways people learn and the tools that assist that learning to be disseminated.”
Barbara Power, Director Health Performance Council Secretariat South Australia & Issue Mapping Webinar Series Graduate

Issue Mapping Webinar Courses

CogNexus is pleased to offer both our Self-Paced Issue Mapping Course and our "live", 6-part Issue Mapping Webinar Series!

The live Webinar Series classes are three hours long and are scheduled every other week at pre-termined start dates. The Self-Paced Course provides exactly the same information as the live course, but allows you to complete it according to your own schedule. Find out more by reading our FAQ.

Both of our Issue Mapping class options cover 2 of the 3 component skills of Dialogue Mapping and is thus a powerful entry to the world of building shared understanding. It is also the prerequisite for the Dialogue Mapping Workshop.

Register        Learn more        Schedule

Issue Mapping Class Option - FAQ 

1) Who will your Issue Mapping classes help and what will they learn?  
Our classes are for those involved in highly complex projects including leaders, consultants, facilitators, organizational development professionals, change agents, managers and engineers who want to:

be able to lead a group to a robust decision that endures and that inspires consistent actions and outcomes despite the cross currents of hidden and competing agendas
get traction in the "swamp" of a project that is cursed with both technical and social complexity
have real dialogue without getting bogged down in politics, personalities or an overload of information
help a group get its bearings in the fog of confusion, contradictory objectives and changing constraints
be able to focus a group's energy in a way that boosts collective intelligence: the capacity to work with ambiguity and equivocal knowledge
be able to capture and organize a large volume of unstructured information to create a coherent foundation for thinking and learning in an organization
This series is designed to advance learning about new ways to work with complex challenges and societal issues and to teach better ways to visualize and make sense of issues.
2) What will I get from your Issue Mapping classes?    top
Our classes are designed to give you new skills:
learn how to create great maps – issue maps that are clear, coherent, and inviting
immediately start using Issue Mapping effectively in your work and life; the class will focus on practical experience and map building
command a rich range of options for publishing and sharing maps
lead with maps: create direction, momentum, and energy with issue maps
quickly and effectively do critical analysis in dynamic situations
organize unstructured information and discover patterns and connections within it

It will also give you a deeper understanding of:
the fundamentals of IBIS and Compendium
the structural patterns that give clarity and power to issue maps
how decision rationale is represented in a map
map evolution - managing time and entropy in issue maps
making critical thinking visible for inspection and analysis
3) How will the classes be held?  top
The live, Issue Mapping Webinar Series will be held over the Internet. Participants will be directed to a web conferencing site that allows full participation and sharing among the group. The audio connection can be by telephone or VoIP (through the web conferencing software). Class participants will be sent link and dial-in information before each class.

At the end of each class you will be given homework assignments which, once complete, you return to the class instructor. You will get personalized feedback on each assignment, and “labs” can be scheduled if additional instruction is needed.

Dr. Jeff Conklin will teach a portion of each live class, with other Issue Mapping instructors and experts delivering the other parts.  

Our Self Paced Course is based on recorded material from previous “live” Series. Once you begin the course, you receive the initial homework and link to the first recording, along with the next homework assignment. Once you complete that homework, you are provided with the link to the next recording.

The material covered in the self-paced version is exactly the same as in the "live" version of the IMWS. The personal attention to reviewing your homework remains the same as with the "live" version of the class. CogNexus staff are available by email or phone to answer any questions you have, at any time.

The major benefit to you, as a student, is that you can adapt the course to your schedule. You can view the recorded material at your convenience rather than having to be at the computer for the course at a fixed date and time. If you want to move quickly through the material, doing the homework and getting feedback quickly, you can! If you want to take your time, you also can... however we ask that you complete the series within 6 months of the starting time.

Do you have questions about the effectiveness of online learning? Read about a recent study that says distance education is more effective than face-to-face learning.
Learn more
4) What sort of interaction is there with the CogNexus staff? 
The live class is limited to 12 participants, so there is great opportunity during each class to ask questions and discuss Issue Mapping with the experts as well as your fellow students.
There is homework between each class. Each assignment is personally graded and commented on by Issue Mapping instructors. If needed, there are also “lab” sessions scheduled where additional mapping and discussion can occur.
The self-paced course is based on recordings of previous live classes. However, you will still receive personalized feedback on each homework assignment. CogNexus instructors will be available via email and telephone for any questions you may have along the way.
5) What is the cost?  
The Issue Mapping Webinar Series (the live course) is $995. There is an Early Bird Discount or a Colleague Discount (for two or more people from the same organization) for registering two weeks or more before the start of the Series.

The cost for the Self Paced Issue Mapping Webinar Series is $795. This fee is non-refundable.

6) How much is homework is there?    top
Both the live and the self-paced courses are about 1/2 class/recording time and 1/2 homework. We estimate that in addition to the 6, 3-hour long virtual classes or recordings that you will have about 3-5 hours of homework in between each class session.

The homework assignments teach IBIS, the question-based language used to create effective maps, and Compendium, the free software used to actually create the maps. You create maps and send them to us. We then give you individualized feedback and send them back to you.

This Series is different from others you might be used to because we ask you to work hard and really get a grasp on Issue Mapping. The live course is small in terms of number of participants so you get the opportunity for deep learning. The self-paced course gives you ample opportunity to interact with the course instructors by email or telephone.

We will meet your learning efforts. This means that we give feedback to people based on their individual level of commitment. If you are someone who wants to dig in, we will happily meet you in "the dirt"!

The homework will, at minimum, help you become a more effective thinker. At maximum, it will help you gain a tool that can catapult you to new levels of success in your meetings and client outcomes as well as your contribution to helping work with big problems in our world. It will also get your ready for our Dialogue Mapping Workshop, the next level of course offering at the CogNexus Institute.
7) What is Issue Mapping?    top
Critical thinking made visible. Groups or individuals can use Issue Mapping. It is a process for crafting a “map” to systematically analyze an issue and make critical thinking visible in a clear and simple way. It uses a specific question-based language (IBIS) and a specific kind of software tool (Compendium or bCisive).

Wiring diagram. An issue map is a graphical network that integrates many problems, solutions, and points of view and shows the big picture of an issue. You can think of an issue map as a “wiring diagram” for an issue, since the structure follows certain rules and, if done well, it reveals the basic elements of a complex issue and how they relate to each other. Although the basic rules are simple, skill, experience, and imagination come into play to create maps that are great!

Issue-based. Issue Mapping frames things as issue-based rather than in the conversational basis that we humans most often use which includes linear thinking, reactionary responses, a lack of deep listening, repetition, getting off track and going "all over the map". Within the issue-based structure of Issue Mapping, we use questions to frame the discussions.

Issue Mapping is writing. Issue Mapping is also a writing process involving composition in both prose and graphical structure. As with writing it is a creative process - creativity about wording the nodes in the map to be clear and succinct, and graphical creativity about weaving the IBIS elements (Questions, Ideas, Pros & Cons) together with documents, sub-maps, and other graphics to create a clear and visually appealing graphical structure. The The Issue Mapping Courses are thus writing workshops for those who would like to be masterful in creating great maps that, like great stories or articles, stand by themselves and communicate powerfully to a wide audience.

When it's useful. Issue Mapping applies to a wide variety of situations. Examples include: creating robust strategy, reducing costs in a large system, making profound organizational changes, coordinating interactions among parts of a large project, and gathering and making sense of requirements for software systems. Issue Mapping can also address wicked problems, but its power is not lost on everyday problems.

8) What are some of the biggest challenges of learning Issue Mapping? 
As we said before, Issue Mapping is a skill that combines a question-based language called IBIS and Compendium, the free software used to create Issue Maps.
Some people feel challenged when learning IBIS because it is a new and different way of thinking. Mapping in IBIS (at first) can feel “artificial”, “awkward” or just plain “wrong” because people aren’t used to it.
Think of it like learning a new language: If you speak another language besides English, you know that you say things differently in different languages. In one language there may be genders, in another, none. There may be things that do or do not express themselves very easily or elegantly in different languages... at least to your ears or tongue. It doesn't make one language better than another, they are just different.
In the case of IBIS, you are learning a new language of sorts – you are learning a new way of thinking about problems and their solutions. A good bit of what we do in this course is to practice thinking in this new way. The Issue Mapping Courses' goal is similar to that of a full immersion language course: we want you to speak proper IBIS until it feels natural. Then, later on, you'll learn some IBIS slang!
Some people also find learning Compendium to be challenging. You can read more about what technical skill is required in order to take the class in our FAQ ”Do I need to be a techie to take one of the approved Issue Mapping Courses?”, below.
9) How is Issue Mapping different from Dialogue Mapping?    top
Issue Mapping is Dialogue Mapping minus group facilitation. It is most powerful when an individual sits down to map out an issue to understand it better, or a group gets together and tasks themselves with analyzing an issue rather than just having a meeting or conversation about it.

Dialogue Mapping is a form of group facilitation that is about creating great conversations, and learning Dialogue Mapping requires students and teacher to be gathered together face-to-face.

Issue Mapping, on the other hand, is about creating great maps, and Issue Mapping can be learned on the Internet. It is the foundation skill on which Dialogue Mapping is based, and in the future the Issue Mapping Courses will be a prerequisite for Dialogue Mapping training.

Although the immediate focus of the Issue Mapping Courses is getting a handle on personal and business issues, the ultimate vision for this work is to provide a lingua franca that allows diverse stakeholders to systematically build toward a shared understanding of the most complex and urgent challenges facing humanity. Learn more about this vision by reading "Growing a Global Issue Base: An Issue-based Approach to Policy Deliberation", a paper that was presented and published by Jeff Conklin at the "Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing; Conference on Online Deliberation" in Berkeley, California in the summer of 2008.

10) How can I learn more about Issue Mapping and your Issue Mapping classes?   
You can attend our live, 75 minute Free Introductory Webinar to learn more about Issue Mapping, Dialogue Mapping and the courses offered through CogNexus Institute. Please register for this Webinar by going to
Learn more
11) Are your Issue Mapping classes designed for people in specific industries? 
No. This series is for those involved in highly complex projects, including leaders, consultants, facilitators, organizational development professionals, change agents, managers and engineers.

Many of our Issue Mapping class participants share the experience of meetings that are full of poorly defined goals, conflicting agendas and a lack of shared understanding about what the problem is, as well as project and company-specific pressures. Their experience has shown them that the traditional way that thinking is communicated (meetings, email, documents) doesn't generate the traction needed to make good decisions and move a situation forward effectively.

One of the first homework assignments is for you to create an issue map on a topic of interest to you. This can be about your personal life, but more often participants get to work on issues that are relevant to their work. It will give you an example to practice on content that matters to you. You will get individualized feedback on this homework. But just to be clear, our feedback isn't industry specific. It is about how to create great maps, how to allow the deep structure of issues to emerge and how to change the way conversations work.

12) When will I be able to start using Issue Mapping?    top
We have had class participants who have begun to use Issue Mapping effectively before the course is over as a regular part of their work. Others have come to class and haven't taken the skill and applied it to their work at all. What happens for you will depend on your investment in the course (time and effort) as well as whether mapping resonates with you.

Part of the homework for this course involves working on a “topic of interest” map – this can be an issue you need to work on at work, in your personal life, or even a larger cause you need to solidify your thinking about. In that sense, you use Issue Mapping with the first class.
13) How much practice will it take before I will feel confident
and competent applying Issue Mapping to my work?   
There really isn't a specific answer for this question. Individuals grasp the IBIS concepts and work with the Compendium tool at different levels and speeds.That said, one of the best ways to become proficient is to jump in and start using Issue Mapping. If you enjoy experiential learning, this is an ideal way to become competent.
14) Do I need to be a “techie” to take the Issue Mapping
Webinar Series?  
The central focus of the course is on learning a language and a way of thinking and listening, not a software tool. We jokingly say that the course is about “rewiring your brain”. However, the medium we use for practicing the skills of issue mapping, a free software tool called Compendium, is a fairly complex tool and takes a significant investment of practice to master. Thus students who do not have strong technology skills should expect to spend more time sorting out technology issues to participate fully in the course. Find out more about the specific technical skills you should have in order to take the course in this PDF document.

Most people who integrate Issue Mapping into their lives find that Compendium, for all of its complexity, offers many features that are essential to creating and managing large issue maps. In the future CogNexus Institute may offer a separate Issue Mapping course for those who prefer low-tech methods and media; in the mean time it’s best to think of the Issue Mapping Courses as a course that, while focused on thinking and listening skills, happens to require a moderate to high level of technical skills for best results.

For questions about Issue Mapping contact us.

Register      Learn more      Schedule

only search CogNexus Institute
Contents of this web site and all original works are copyright © CogNexus Institute - All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of owner.