whole system mapping

whole system mapping


   Goal: Define the problem you’re solving by looking at the whole system and setting your priorities, then ideate solutions and check them against your priorities.


 Time investment: Exploring the content, reading examples, and doing the exercises can take as little as an hour and a half, or as much as half a day (or longer, if you do a full product life cycle assessment rather than simple estimates). 

Systems thinking can make your product or service more sustainable while meeting users’ needs better. It helps you to step back and look at the big picture, so you’re solving the right problems. Whole System Mapping is just one method for systems thinking. It makes systems thinking more concrete and actionable, by providing a structured process that is visual and collaborative across disciplines. It turns sustainability from a burden into an innovation tool by combining the big picture with a focus on priorities, then enabling more thorough ideation and more radical ideation.

Whole System Mapping is a four-step design method:

  1. Create a whole system map of your product
  2. Set priorities based on life cycle assessment (or other quantitative metric) & business strategy
  3. Brainstorm solutions on your system map, for more thorough and radical ideas
  4. Choose the winning ideas based on your priorities

View a quick video introduction here:


You can also download the Autodesk Quick Reference Guide below.

Autodesk Quick Reference Guide


Below is a deep-dive video (30 minutes) taking you through the process step-by-step, as on the Exercise page.

Click on the Whole System Mapping Exercise below to get started.


All VentureWell Tools for Design and Sustainability content is shareable and usable by CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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