Midwest UX 2015 (Pittsburgh)

  • Carnegie Mellon University 5000 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA, 15213 United States

I'm leading a full-day training workshop at Midwest UX 2015 in Pittsburgh. It's called The Modeled Organization. Workshop registrations are independent of conference registrations. The cost is $200.

I'll also be hanging out as an attendee for the conference itself.

Here's the abstract:

“There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self.” — Benjamin Franklin

Most digital products today exist as a mesh of people, ideas, and connected devices. As technology becomes ever more ubiquitous and shapeless, understanding the purpose, vision, and core activities of our organizations is more important than ever.

A good model can help us articulate and share our understanding by creating an unambiguous snapshot of the “isness” of an organization. These models can serve as a foundational tool to craft better products, brands, and content strategies.

Workshop participants will learn to create such a model in the form of a rigid concept map. Rigid concept maps are a type of diagram made of connected nouns and verbs — little “propositions” of knowledge. These propositions combine to tell a larger story about our organizations and activities by visually describing complex systems with clear language. Concept maps help us represent domain expertise and are a great way to coordinate knowledge between stakeholders, subject matter experts, and designers.

You will learn a five-step process for creating rigid concept maps alone or with a team, as well as important constraints to maximize clarity and discovery. Next, you’ll be guided through a series of activities to develop and refine your maps. Finally, we’ll practice using our maps to tell a story and coordinate understanding with our team.

All workshop activities are done with analog tools including sticky notes, markers, and poster paper. However, the process translates extremely well to digital forms. The beauty of this modeling technique is in its simplicity and adaptability — participants might choose to add a lightweight version of the technique to their own personal process, or bring the process back to serve as the foundation of a new project.


  • A five-step process for building rigid concept maps
  • How to use concept maps to model our organizations and gain agreement and clarity within a team
  • A clear understanding of what, specifically, a rigid concept map is and how it differs from other popular mapping techniques
  • A process for using modeling as a collaborative tool in a team environment
  • Specific tool recommendations, including software programs, for building concept maps, and “quickstart” tips for mastering them quickly