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The Concept System® is a structured process, with a definite beginning, middle, and end. The results serve an organization for as long as an issue is relevant.

Using groupwisdom as our data and analysis software, here is a brief description of the process we use with consulting clients.

1. Preparation

In this step, we work with you to define what the focus of the project will be. What problem do you have to solve as a group? What do you need to learn from the group members?

We also talk about who should be included in your group, to give you the best and most diverse thinking on the topic. Finally, we create a schedule for the project, and a strategy for involving stakeholders in the process.

2. Generating ideas

Once we know the focus of the project, we ask participants to brainstorm ideas in response to that “focus prompt.”  Brainstorming can take place in the traditional way, with the group in one room.

Or people can generate ideas individually and submit them anonymously.  If you use our web-based process, the brainstorming website is updated in real time, so participants can see the ideas that have already been generated.

3. Structuring the ideas

We give the final list of ideas back to participants and ask them to sort the ideas into categories that make sense to them.  We don’t limit the number of categories they choose to use, but we do ask that they put each idea into one category only.  We also ask them to create their categories based on concepts, so ideas are sorted by how similar they are in meaning to each other, not by how important they are.

Participants do have an opportunity to rate the ideas on how important they are, or on any other scale, which we will work with you to define.  Rating the ideas is a separate and equally important part of the structuring step.

4. Analysis

In this step, we aggregate participants’ structuring work to create the concept map.  We use statistical techniques like multi-dimensional scaling, which locates each idea as a separate point on the map.  Statements that are closer to each other on this map have generally been grouped together more frequently by the participants.

Another statistical technique, hierarchical cluster analysis, shows us where it makes sense to draw boundaries around groups of ideas, to make them into conceptual “clusters.”  Finally, we average the ratings for each idea, and each cluster of ideas.

5. Interpretation

Our process is facilitated by technology, but not dictated by it.  An important part of our process is sitting down to look at the concept maps with you.  Here are some of the reports we examine:

– Point Map.  We look at where each idea “point” fell on the map, which shows us how the group thinks these ideas are related to one another.

– Cluster Map.  This map shows where the boundaries are drawn around the points to create categories.

– Rating Maps.  These maps overlay the rating data onto the map to show us, for example, which ideas or clusters of ideas the participants thought were most important.

– Pattern Matches.  These reports compare the ratings of the clusters based on different criteria, such as different stakeholder groups, rating variables, or points in time.

– Go-Zones.  These reports compare the ratings of the individual ideas within a cluster, using the same criteria as Pattern Matches use.

6. Utilization

In this step, we guide you on ways to use the maps and reports. For example, we might show you how to use the maps as a framework for your strategic plan or evaluation design, or to use the ratings to track progress over time.

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