Forward and backward mapping


Use for

Vision creation, producing an action plan with a good mix between feasibility and degree of innovation.


System innovation projects are by their nature innovative and different to the usual. On the other hand, they must match existing practices closely enough to lead to new practices. This method of forward and backward mapping allows you to explore both objectives without making concessions to either.

What do you do?

You combine two ‘mental models': forward mappingand backward mapping. In practice, you do this by alternately:

  • taking a problem and thinking of a solution (forward mapping)
  • taking a possible solution and thinking about potential problems in terms of feasibility and acceptability (backward mapping).


There are no special requirements for adopting this approach.

More information

(in Dutch) Grin, J en A. van Staveren (2007). Werken aan systeeminnovaties. Lessen uit de praktijk van InnovatieNetwerk. Van Gorcum: Assen, pp 195-196.

Used by

Among others:

John Grin, UvA: