A map of physical terrain is visual, specific to the battle at hand, and includes the position of troops and obstacles relative to an anchor (magnetic North).

A map of a competitive business Landscape (a Wardley Map) is also visual and context-specific, but instead of magnetic North, the anchor is the User being served and their corresponding needs. And instead of troops, the map contains a value chain — capabilities necessary to fulfill the needs, arranged according to their dependency relationships.

The position of the capabilities on a Wardley Map is dependent on two aspects:

First, visibility to the user, which is a natural outcome of a component’s relative position within the value chain, manually adjusted as needed.

Second, evolutionary stage, as determined through evaluation of the component’s general properties and characteristics.

Making a Map

Wardley Mapping is a straight-forward process, and most difficulties boil down to concerns about making “mistakes” or doing the “wrong” thing. It is much more valuable to discard these concerns up-front, embrace the messiness of the process, and learn by boldly doing.

The process of mapping is also the process of constructing a model of reality. An incorrect model that is also useful is the definition of success.

To make a map:

  1. Identify the Users being served
  2. Identify the Needs to be met (think of these as top-level Capabilities)
  3. Identify the Capabilities needed to successfully meet those needs
  4. Determine the stage of Evolution for each Capability by evaluating its characteristics (if it’s difficult to decide, try breaking the Capability down into multiple, smaller Capabilities)
  5. Draw the complete value chain — User at the top, Needs and Capabilities underneath, with dependency relationships included and Capabilities placed in Stages I, II, III, or IV of Evolution

The process can also look something like this…

1. Users and Needs

2. Capabilities

3. Value Chain

4. Wardley Map

Courtesy of Simon WardleyCC BY-SA 4.0.

Evolution Characteristics

Everything evolves from left to right under the forces of supply and demand competition. This effect occurs in aggregate in capitalism, because as long as there is a benefit to be gotten by making something better, it’s a decent bet that someone out there will do the work to make it happen. Use the tables below to identify how evolved something is as you map. The cells of the second table can be marked by clicking on them.

Stage of Evolution








Product (+rental)

Commodity (+utility)
















Stage of Evolution





Ubiquity Rare Slowly increasing consumption Rapidly increasing consumption Widespread and stabilising
Certainty Poorly understood Rapid increases in learning Rapid increases in use / fit for purpose Commonly understood (in terms of use)
Publication Types Normally describe the wonder of the thing Build / construct / awareness and learning Maintenance / operations / installation / features Focused on use
General Properties
Market Undefined market Forming market Growing market Mature market
Knowledge management Uncertain Learning on use Learning on operation Known / accepted
Market perception Chaotic (non-linear) Domain of experts Increasing expectations of use Ordered (appearance of being linear) / trivial
User perception Different / confusing / exciting / surprising Leading edge / emerging Common / disappointed if not used or available Standard / expected
Perception in industry Competitive advantage / unpredictable / unknown Competitive advantage / ROI / case examples Advantage through implementation / features Cost of doing business / accepted
Focus of value High future worth Seeking profit / ROI? High profitability High volume / reducing margin
Understanding Poorly understood / unpredictable Increasing understanding / development of measures Increasing education / constant refinement of needs / measures Believed to be well defined / stable / measurable
Comparison Constantly changing / a differential / unstable Learning from others / testing the water / some evidential support Feature difference Essential / operational advantage
Failure High / tolerated / assumed Moderate / unsurprising but disappointed Not tolerated, focus on constant improvement Operational efficiency and surprised by failure
Market action Gambling / driven by gut Exploring a "found" value Market analysis / listening to customers Metric driven / build what is needed
Efficiency Reducing the cost of change (experimentation) Reducing cost of waste (Learning) Reducing cost of waste (Learning) Reducing cost of deviation (Volume)
Decision drivers Heritage / culture Analysis & synthesis Analysis & synthesis Previous experience

Based on Simon Wardley's Evolutionary Characteristics Cheat SheetCC BY-SA 4.0.

Don’t worry if some of the terms are confusing... just use what you can. Like Chess, mapping is a craft and you will get better with practice.

--Simon Wardley

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