Whole System Mapping

The Whole System Mapping design method was created in 2010 for the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop. Since then it has been used by companies and taught at over a dozen universities around the world, including UC Berkeley, UT Austin, University of Calgary, Hongik University in Korea, Indian Institute of Science, and several Indian Institutes of Technology.

The goal: Systems thinking is widely known to be vital for sustainability strategy, but it is difficult. This method simplifies it and makes it more actionable. In addition, it integrates LCA or other metrics into early-stage design, drives ideation to be more thorough and more radical, and is a visual collaboration tool.

It is a four-step process:

1. Visually map the product’s (or service’s) system.
2. Use estimated life cycle assessment (LCA) or other quantitative metric to set sustainability priorities, then balance with business or other priorities.
3. Brainstorm on the system map you created, with ideas for every node and ideas that eliminate nodes .
4. Choose winning ideas based on your priorities and your estimates of each new idea’s performance.


More information: a paper describing the method, and how to perform the method.


Whole System Mapping Exercise