The versatility of system maps is a boon to problem solvers. But it demands careful reflection about the purpose a map is intended to serve and what that means for how it should look. Look before you leap!
System maps – understood as influence or causal-loop diagrams – are powerful conceptual tools.
In fact they are the intellectual equivalent of a Swiss army knife, the archetypal survival tool.
The Victorinox assists us in myriads of ways – cutting, pruning, sawing, puncturing, and more – indispensable when navigating the great outdoors. Similarly, a system map is a flexible platform to help us to come to grips with the complexity of today’s wicked problems.
But this versatility comes at a price. It requires us, as map developers, to clearly think upfront about the purpose the system map is intended to serve.
In fact complexity may lead us to consider a variety of map-supported strategies. These strategies may translate in different requirements for the systems map and those requirements may or may not be aligned. Conflicting requirements obviously deepen the design challenge.