Steve Clean Mapping the Unknown – The Ten Steps to Map Any Business

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

 Lǎozi 老子

I simply had lunch with Shenwei, one in every of my ex-students who had simply taken a job in a mid-sized consulting agency.  After a little bit of catching up I supplied he was trying a bit misplaced. “I simply received handed a challenge to assist our agency enter a brand new business – semiconductors. They need me to map out the area so we are able to work out the place we are able to add worth.

After I requested what they already knew about it, they tossed me a tall stack of business and inventory analyst studies, firm names, websites, blogs. I began studying by way of a bunch of it and I’m drowning in knowledge however don’t know the place to begin. I really feel like I don’t know a factor.”

I instructed Shenwei I used to be comfortable for him as a result of he had simply been handed an superior studying alternative – tips on how to quickly perceive after which map any new market. He gave me a “simple so that you can say” look, however earlier than he may object I handed him a pen and a serviette and requested him to jot down down the names of firms and ideas he examine which have something to do with the semiconductor enterprise – in 30 seconds. He rapidly got here up with a listing with 9 names/phrases. (See Mapping – First Move)

“Nice, now now we have a begin. Now give me a number of phrases that describe what they do, or imply, or what you don’t learn about them.”

Don’t let the enormity of unknowns frighten you. Begin with what you do know.

After a couple of minutes he got here up with a serviette sketch that appeared like the image in Mapping – Second Move. 
Now we had some progress.

I identified he now had a starter listing that not solely contained firms however the starting of a map of the relationships between these firms. And whereas he had a number of information, others had been hypotheses and ideas. And he had a ton of unanswered questions.

We spent the subsequent 20 minutes deconstructing that sketch and mapping out the Second Move listing as a diagram (see Mapping – Third Move.)

As you retain studying extra supplies, you’ll have extra questions than information. Your aim is to first flip the questions into testable hypotheses (guesses). Then see if you could find knowledge that turns the hypotheses into information. For some time the questions will begin accumulating sooner than the information. That’s OK.

Word that even with simply the sparse set of knowledge Shenwei had, within the backside right-hand nook of his third mapping go, a relationship diagram of the semiconductor business was starting to emerge.

Drawing a diagram of the relationships of firms in an business can assist you deeply perceive how the business works and who the important thing gamers are. Begin constructing one instantly. As you discover you may’t fill in all of the relationships, the gaps outlining what you must study will develop into instantly seen.

As the knowledge fog was starting to elevate, I may see Shenwei’s confidence returning. I identified that he had an actual benefit that his task was in a identified business with a lot of obtainable data. He rapidly realized that he may maintain including data to the columns within the third mapping go as he learn by way of the studies and websites.

Google and Google Scholar are your finest buddies. As you uncover new data enhance your search phrases.

My suggestion was to make use of the diagram within the third mapping go as the start of a wall chart – both bodily (or just about if he may maintain it in all in his head). And each time he discovered extra in regards to the business to replace the connection diagram of the business and its segments. (When he identified that there have been present diagrams of the semiconductor business he may copy, I steered that he ignore them. The aim was for him to know the business properly sufficient that he may draw his personal map ab initio – from the start. And if he did so, he may create a a lot better one.)

When lunch was over Shenwei requested if it was OK if he checked in with me as he discovered new issues and I agreed. What he didn’t know was that this was solely step one in a ten-step business mapping course of.


Over the subsequent few weeks Shenwei shared what he had discovered and despatched me his more and more refined and up to date business relationship map. (The 4th  mapping go confirmed up 48 hours later.)In trade I shared with him the information that he was on step one in every of a ten step business mapping program. Different the subsequent few weeks he rapidly constructed on the business map to reply questions 2 by way of 10 beneath.

Two weeks later he handed his management an business report that lined the ten steps beneath and contained a classy business diagram he created from scratch. A far cry from his authentic serviette sketch!

Six months later his work on this challenge satisfied his firm that there was a big alternative within the semiconductor area, and so they began a brand new observe with him in it. His work gained him the “finest new worker” award.

The Ten Steps to Map any Business

Begin by repeatedly refining your understanding of the business by diagramming it. Record all the brand new phrases you encounter and create a glossary in your personal phrases. Begin gathering the perfect sources of knowledge you’ve learn.

Fundamental Business Understanding

  1. Diagram the business and its segments
    1. Begin with something
    2. Construct your studying by successive iteration
    3. Who’re the important thing suppliers to every phase?
    4. How does this business feed into the bigger financial system?
  2. Create a glossary of business distinctive phrases
    1. Are you able to clarify them to others? Are there analogies to different markets?
  3. Who’re the business specialists in every phase? For the complete business?
    1. Financial specialists? E.g. business analysts, universities, assume tanks
    2. Expertise specialists? E.g. universities, assume tanks
    3. Geographic specialists?
  4. Key Conferences, blogs, websites, and so forth.
    1. What are the perfect opensource knowledge feeds?
    2. What are the perfect paid assets?

Overlay numbers, {dollars}, market share, Compound Annual Progress Fee (CAGR) on all elements of the business diagram. That can inform velocity and path of the market.

Detailed Business Understanding

  1. Who’re the market leaders? New entrants? In income, market share and progress price
    1. Within the U.S.
    2. Western nations
    3. China
  2. Perceive the expertise flows
    1. Who builds on prime of who
    2. Who’s vital versus who may be substituted
  3. Perceive the financial flows
    1. Who buys from who on this business
    2. Who buys the output from this business.
    3. How cyclical is demand?
    4. What are the demand drivers?
    5. How do firms inside every phase get funded? Any variations in capital necessities? Ease of beginning, and so forth.
  4. If relevant, perceive the personnel movement for every phase
    1. Do individuals transfer simply between their segments or up and down by way of the complete business?
    2. The place do they get educated?

The newbie’s forecasting methodology is to easily extrapolate present progress charges ahead. However in as we speak’s expertise markets, discontinuities are coming quick and livid. Are there different applied sciences from adjoining markets will affect this one? (e.g. AI, Quantum, Excessive efficiency computing,…?). Are there different world or nationwide financial initiatives that might change the form of the market?


  1. What’s modified within the final 10 years? 5 years?
    1. Diagram the previous incarnations of the business
  2. What’s going to vary within the subsequent 5 years?
    1. Any massive perception on disruption?
    2. New entrants?
    3. New expertise?
    4. New international suppliers?
    5. Diagram your mannequin of the business in 5 years