Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA)

Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA) is a method for working on complex problems. It is an approach designed to help OR consultants help their clients with messy problems.


SODA uses interview and cognitive mapping to capture individual views of an issue. Group maps constructed through the aggregation of individual cognitive maps are used to facilitate negotiation about value/goal systems, key strategic issues, and option portfolios. As well as problem content, attention is paid to the affective, political, and process dynamics in the group.


SODA aims to provide a management team with a model as a device to aid negotiation, working with individuality and subjectivity as the basis for problem definition and creativity. It tends to generate increasingly rich models, rather than move towards abstraction or simplicity and sees strategic management in terms of changing thinking and action rather than planning.


The method aims to develop high levels of ownership for a problem through the attention paid to problem definition and negotiation. It is aimed at groups of four to ten participants.

The process uses two personal computers, special software (COPE, see below), one (preferably two) large monitors, blank wall space, large sheets of paper, and water based pens. It is managed by two facilitators - one who attends primarily to content and one to process. SODA was originally developed by Colin Eden at the University of Bath.


COPE (now commercially available as Banxia "Decision Explorer")

COPE cognitive mapping software was created specifically for use with SODA. COPE is used to map individual cognitive maps of the problem space and then to combine those individual maps into a group map that can highlight both areas of consensus and areas of disagreement.



SODA diagram



It is PC/Windows based, can use colour, is easy to use and highly flexible.



  • Professor Colin Eden, University of Strathclyde
  • "Using Cognitive Mapping for Strategic Options Development". ( in 'Rational Analysis for a Problematic World', Jonathan Rosenhead (ed.)). Wiley 1989.


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