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The 4 Types of Concept Maps

Featured image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

Concept maps provide a visual and user-friendly way of showing relationships between various concepts or ideas. Frequently used in business, design, engineering, marketing, and academia, concept maps are one of the most popular organizational tools out there.


When you’re running a business, developing a new product, or devising growth strategies, you inevitably have a lot of information to collate and analyze. However, this information isn’t distinct and isolated. Instead, it is interconnected with other aspects of the activity.

If you are designing a new product, for example, you’ll need to incorporate information regarding your target audiences, buyer personas, budgets, and marketing campaigns. You will need this information as you decide which features are most important.

A concept map provides a visual and user-friendly way of presenting this information. It shows the relationships between various concepts or ideas. Frequently used in business, design, engineering, marketing, and academia, the widespread application of concept maps makes them one of the most popular organizational tools out there.

To find out which form of concept mapping is best suited to your needs, look at these four types of concept maps now.

1. Spider Map

A spider map gets its name because when complete, it looks like a typical spider’s web. You’ll place a central topic or concept in the center of the map, with relevant subtopics surrounding it in a radial pattern. If necessary, each subtopic can then branch off into smaller subtopics.

If you have a single central concept, a spider map can be an easy and efficient way to visualize the topic and surrounding subtopics. However, it can be restrictive if you have numerous core concepts to include. Furthermore, a standard spider map doesn’t allow for adding much detail regarding the relationships between subtopics. This can be a limitation if you want to incorporate more in-depth data into your concept map.


2. Hierarchy Map

As the name suggests, a hierarchy map shows the order of things or concepts, starting at the top. You place the most important entry at the top of the map. Then, your map branches off into several different levels, decreasing in importance the further down they are.

For example, you might begin with a core topic at the top of a hierarchy map. Next, you would place overarching principles on the next level, subtopics on the following level, and so on. At each interval, you can add branches or lines to include content that’s relevant to that particular entry.

If you want to prioritize items in order of importance or chronology, a hierarchy map can be an effective way of concept mapping. However, it may only show limited information regarding the interdependence or relationship between lower-level entries.

3. System Map

When it comes to concept mapping, a system map is certainly the most detailed tool to use. At first glance, a system map can seem confusing and overwhelming. But if you look a little closer you’ll be surprised at how easy to navigate it is.

Every entry connects with relevant entries by way of a line and a plus or minus sign. This indicates whether or not it has a positive or negative effect upon the entry. This makes it easy to identify and understand the relationships between topics and subtopics.

As system maps can contain a vast of information, they are often the most effective way to incorporate all the data you need into a visual formation. Due to this, they are extremely popular and widely used. This is particularly true in a business setting when large amounts of data and the relationships between different teams and departments need to be referenced.

4. Flow Chart

A flow chart is a simple yet effective form of concept mapping that can streamline decision-making. This type of concept map can make it easy to reach a conclusion. Starting with a central question or topic, you move through the chart according to your own input. If you answer “yes” to your core question, for example, you’ll follow the relevant line to the next entry. Then repeat this process until you reach a conclusion.

With a flow chart, the information is quite orderly and easy to read and interpret. However, flow charts rarely contain large amounts of data, which can limit their effectiveness. In addition, they’re typically used when established steps or processes are already in place. They are not useful for facilitating critical thinking or problem solving.

Using These Important Tools in Business

Concept mapping can be used in a wide variety of situations, but it is particularly useful in a business environment. If you want to research a potential business idea, plan an upcoming marketing campaign, or learn more about a target audience, for example, a concept map can help you to present your ideas and/or findings visually. It can help you to understand the relationships between each entry on the map.

Of course, using concept maps effectively is the key to success. Therefore, it’s worth doing your research and learning how to create these maps. With the right tools and methodologies, concept maps can become a critical element of your data analysis and decision-making processes.