Innovation in practice: stakeholder mapping

The Innovation in practice series is a short-form, practical guide to using innovation and agile techniques in the workplace. Most of these techniques can be equally applied to everyday activities or to breakthrough innovation.

The problem

Making stuff is hard, especially if you make assumptions about the wants and needs of your stakeholders. No-one wants to guess whether their solution is going to work, sell or scale. Caveat emptor – we’ve had a number of discussions on this blog about the pitfalls and benefits of user journeys. Please ensure you read these as well!

Introducing: Stakeholder mapping


Also known as:

  • Stakeholder journey
  • Can be used for specific stakeholder groups such as user or customer

What you will need:

  • At least one representative of each of the stakeholders you are mapping. If it is impossible to have a stakeholder in the room on the day, consider including them via video conferencing or be available at different time points during the process to validate the map.
  • A team of non-stakeholder experts who know the environment, at least two people per stakeholder map, recommendation is three (two to spar and one to mediate).
  • Whiteboard/flipcharts and marker pens. Sticky notes also are useful.


Mapping multiple stakeholders at once, each one with a different perspective. For example, if you want to solve for eczema, you could map the journey of a patient, a dermatologist and a payer (or even a nurse, a GP, an internal stakeholder such as regulatory/compliance if you are doing something that needs a lot of internal work to justify).

How it works:

  • Define who your stakeholder is. Sometimes you will have persona, sometimes it’s just an idea of a general customer – either way, it can be helpful to give them a name and some defining criteria (e.g. John is 56 years old, he is a builder and likes cats. John has had dry patches on his hands for most of his adult life). If you have a stakeholder in the room – base it on them!
  • Think about how your stakeholder gets from point A to point B. Unless it’s a circular journey, decide the start point and end point for your stakeholder (e.g. for a newly-diagnosed patient with eczema, such as John, the starting point could be the worsening of skin symptoms that trigger his journey, the end point could be clear skin or it could be a circular map if the condition is not controlled).
  • Note down each step in this journey.
  • Think about everything that person experiences that is relevant (For our John example, that could be symptoms, searching for solutions, trying over-the-counter remedies, giving away his cat, attending the GP, diagnosis/misdiagnosis, trying topical prescriptions, flare ups, more visits to the GP, referral to a dermatologist, more treatment, etc.).
  • Once you have a relatively detailed map of the steps, take a look to see if there is anything missing and add it now.
  • Now apply some “in your shoes” thinking – for each step in the journey, what does this stakeholder ‘think’ and ‘do’? You might also like to add what this person ‘feels’ at each step (so, if John had to give up his cat because he thinks it flares up an allergy on his skin, how does he feel, how does it affect him and his family)?
  • At this point, I expect you will have a very messy whiteboard. Try taking a picture of it and then nominating someone to draw it out on a clean sheet (or on a powerpoint slide).


You now have a clear map of your stakeholder that can be used to identify where the problems and needs are, and where you could potentially add value or solve problems for these stakeholders.

Also see:

Innovation in practice: ensuring focus in meetings and workshops

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