Business Design Tools

Context Map

The Context Map Canvas is a framework to help you understand the world around your business or team. These are the things you have ZERO control over. Based on what is important and relevant for your business you may want to design towards them, design around them or design away from them. It’s easy to keep our focus  within our own walls on the things we can control. This is a great tool to open our minds to competition, major trends, technology advancements, rules and regulations, uncertainties, and the changing desires of our customers.

Demographic Trends

Look for data on demographics, education, employment. Are there big changes that will impact your business?

Rules and Regulations

Are there trends in rules and regulations what will impact your business in the near future?

Economy and Environment

What are treands in the economy and in the environment that will impact your business?


What trends do you see among you competitors? Are there new entries?

Technology Trends

What are the bug technological changes that will impact your business in the near future?

Customer Needs

What are the big trends in customer needs? How do the expentations of customers develop in the near future?


Do you see any big uncertainties? Things that can have a big impact but it's unclear how or when?

5 Effective ways to use the tool

Your Personal Context

What’s happening in the world around YOU? Knowing your world is key if you want to stay on top of things. Accounting for changes that are going on, such as new technology trends, new competition, or new rules and regulations ensures that the decisions you make are responsive to the world around you.

Your Competitors Context

What are your competitors doing and why? If they’re moving in a significant new direction it could be an indicator that they’ve seen something you haven’t. If they’re going through some difficulty, it can be a major warning to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you. It can also expose major opportunities that they might have missed. Spend some time in the shoes of your competitors.

Your Team's Context

What better way to get across an idea to a potential investor (internal or external) than to show them the robustness of your thinking in a way that grabs their attention and tugs at the emotions? The business model canvas can be used to demonstrate real business rigor and to show that you’ve covered the fundamentals. Let’s paint a clear picture of the path to success.

Your Client's Context

As an extension to empathy mapping, and perhaps to also aide with value proposition design, consider the world that your target customer segment(s) live within. This exercise can highlight ways that you can provide them value in resonant and unexpected ways.

Your Business Context

This is foundational for strategy design. At the very least, have the strategy design team, exec, senior leaders etc. align on the crucial context parameters that we should consider for our growth. This can also be a helpful way of considering options for strategic partnerships and/or how to grow strategic relationships with key accounts.

Top Tips

Start anywhere

Unlike most business design tools, the Context Map has no particular order to how you work on it. Go where the energy takes you, but make sure you visit each part of the canvas.

Use the top 3 approach

There are a lot of moving pieces in this canvas. They are all important. You’ve flushed out and brain dumped deep thinking. The canvas is now a mess. Make some choices. What are the TOP 3 context factors that we need to take away from this exercise? Prioritize. All of these exercises should result in some form of “doing”, be that a simple action or the sparking of a strategic initiative.

Identify areas for deeper market research

The depth of thinking will obviously depend on who is taking part in the conversation. Take note of things that you don’t know and where you are drawing blanks. The context map is really useful for aligning our thinking on where we need to go dig deeper with market research.

Bring in the experts

Inviting subject matter experts to the table during a context mapping activity is a great way to add key insights that you might not have otherwise thought of. This not only strengthens your understanding of the current climate, but also helps you align your SMEs with other aspects of your organization.

Challenge the "Blah"

Don’t be afraid to get really specific with this activity. Broad terms like “data” and “technology” can cause more confusion further down the line. Pinpoint specific things to help build a more solid picture of the world around you.

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