Story and Journey Mapping


The mapping technique, usually called “cognitive mapping” was developed in  1948 by Edward Tolman, one of the early cognitive psychologists to explain the behavior of rats that appeared to learn the spatial layout of a maze. As part of exploratory and discovery-based research, a cognitive mapping sessions allows people to create a visual representation of their mental models on anything relating to the planned project. It’s an advanced form of a mind map (which only shows relationships of elements)


User story mapping (CJM) is a form of cognitive mapping used by software companies in Agile processes for release planning. Gathered ideas are sorted horizontally based on a user story/user goal or system process, vertically based on implementation effort or release date.

Customer journey mapping is a form of cognitive mapping used by Digital Product / UX designers to define the experience of a customer across time.


At the end of the day, all mapping methods – no matter what they are called – try to unite the vision of individuals in a company on how to make money into a coherent, actionable and executable plan for everyone. 

Chris Risdon from Adaptive Path, now Capital One.


Cognitive Mapping examples by NN Group

Agile User Story Map example by miro

How-to Guide

Capture ideas on a topic

People are being told to brainstorm on a topic and draw or paste individual elements (text, postits) on a blank page. If this is a User Journey Mapping, this could be “touchpoints”

Example from Miro

Alternative: collect ideas in private

A neutral participant sets them on a board. The writer can be revealed, or in groups with difficult dynamics and lots of criticism, kept private

Combine overlapping or matching ideas

Similar ideas are combined or grouped into corresponding groups. For the groups suitable generic terms are defined

Establish correlations of ideas/idea groups

event (comes before/after)
causal (leads to, produces)
explanation (is a reason for)
nominal (known as)
property (consists of, has)
procdeure (results in, done by, way to do)
probable (likely, always)
persona (would do)

Alternative if the ideas / idea groups are already concrete and sortable: categorize them (usually based on some kind of user story or process)

Sharpen the ideas in order to turn them into actionable goals

Valuable to users or customers

More infos

Cognitive Mapping

User Story Mapping

User Journey Mapping

User Journey Mapping

The Truth About Customer Experience, Harvard Business Review

Anything missing?

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