Tips for using Kumu for large system maps

Kumu is a great online tool for making dynamic diagrams of systems, stakeholders and social networks.  Here’s what I learned from using Kumu for a large system map of over 1100 cause-effect connections between 550 elements:

4x3 entire model subj-colour same-size

Put all elements into one Kumu map so that the elements can be linked and reused across subject areas.  Use element types, tags, and custom fields (such as Subject Area) to distinguish the many kinds of elements that need to be connected in that one map.

New elements and connections are easily lost in a large model.  When creating an element, immediately assign its type, and any field used to filter displays (such as Subject Area).   When creating a connection, immediately assign its type (Same or Opposite). If the Same connections use the default notation, a new connection will look like the Same type even if it should be Opposite, and it will be difficult to find later.

Set up custom Filter Controls to quickly isolate various smaller segments of the model, using drop-down lists or toggle buttons in the corners of your screen.

Use numeric fields, with the largest value indicating the highest rating, for any fields that might be used to scale the size of an element bubble or connection line width.  You can keep the font size stable when scaling those elements.

Make a copy of the model for testing things, separate from the official (production) version of the model that is shared with other people.  You can make the copy by exporting the Kumu data then importing it to a new project.

Make one or two views for collaborators to use, and keep their settings stable. The modeller should do filtering, testing, etc. on separate views.

To share the model content with people who do not need to edit it, use the Kumu embedding, spreadsheet export, and screen-shot capabilities.

To build a large model, import model content from spreadsheets where available. Kumu can update existing elements with an imported spreadsheet, but first test the import on a copy of the model to make sure no duplicate elements will be created.  You can collect input from a group using a collaborative spreadsheet, then importing it to Kumu.  (Take note of the limitations on Kumu’s integration with Google Sheets.)

My Master’s Research Project report, section 6.4.4, evaluates Kumu for making large system models.  If you would like to customize Kumu for system mapping, give me a shout!

One thought on “Tips for using Kumu for large system maps

  1. Pingback: Making and using large models of complex systems: The Poverty Reduction Model | Alana Boltwood

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