Reflections on Map Camp 2019

This year I was finally able to attend Map Camp 2019 with ~600 other people at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London. Map Camp is a conference for learning the technique of Wardley Mapping, a tool for mapping strategy.

I first came across Wardley Maps a couple of years ago through the medium book. I found it compelling, Simon Wardley has a lovely humble style of writing. He described how he went from ‘bumbling CEO’ to ‘having a vague idea of what I was doing’. That self-deprecating style drew me in, and I found a lot I could relate to in my work. But, I could never get the hang of mapping and I hoped going to Map Camp would help me have that aha! moment.

Map Camp started bright and early at 08:45. Simon opened the event with the battle of Thermopylae, described as a SWOT diagram. He highlighted how traditional business tools failed to provide a sense of space and purpose (movement).

A topographical map of the battle of Thermopylae alongside a tongue-in-cheek SWOT analysis of the battle. It makes the case that the SWOT diagram fails to give any insight into what to do next. Credit: Simon Wardley

If you haven’t come across a Wardley map before, it is a value chain map on steroids! It starts at user needs and branches out down the chain to the components required to deliver that need. As with a value chain, the things closest to user needs are the most visible. But, what it also maps is where each of those components is in their lifecycle. By adding this detail, you are able to make decisions on the best approach to take to developing or managing the component and where to invest.

An example map showing components of a service, and where they are in their evolution. From there you can choose what approach to take for each component. Credit: Simon Wardley
Example patterns to apply to components depending on where they are in their evolution. Credit Simon Wardley

The day was filled with a variety of talks – each adding something new to mapping.

I can go on forever about how much I learnt (and I did, just check out my mammoth blog for lots more detail on each and every talk), but I’ve decided to distil it for here on my key takeaways of the day: 

  • When producing a map, think about what your competitors are doing, what gaps or opportunities do the directions they take present.
  • As with most things in life, mapping works best as a group effort, something I hadn’t thought about before.
  • And another reason to evolve this into a group effort would be to find more people to challenge my thinking!
  • Security moves slow! Mario Platt used maps to show security trends, and showed how robust solutions were now primarily commodity services. I was surprised resilient solutions were mapped as genesis/custom-built, it feels like we have been talking about resilience > robustness for years.
  • If part of your stack is moving towards being served as a commodity, this is the perfect time to think about what opportunities for new ideas this presents.
  • The final talk, led by Chris Daniel, had us break into teams to put what we learnt to the test. As I had seen throughout the day, doing the exercise as a group worked much better than my previous lone attempts at mapping. It became most useful after we had mapped what we thought the current landscape was and started to ask ourselves, so what next? A point I hadn’t reached before on my own, and where I suspect its real benefit lies. 


I certainly feel like I learnt more about what mapping is, and more importantly some different approaches from where I was getting stuck with the technique.

For those looking to learn more about Wardley Maps, start with the “book” and go from there. Map Camp stretched my brain in new and unexpected ways, and I loved it.

See you at Map Camp 2020!