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Navigating complexity

System Loops

Connect all the actors in the system based on the values they exchange

The context

When analysing an existing service system or defining a new one, it’s important to consider that every player in the ecosystem is exchanging a value with the other actors involved. Mapping out all the exchanged values can help summarising underlying motivations and understanding the role of each touchpoint involved.

Suggested approach

System loops enrich system maps by always showing the relationship among two actors as an exchange in which they are both giving and receiving something. This means analysing more in depth the dynamics that structure the system, mapping out tangible and intangible exchanged values and immediately visualising critical issues, gaps and redundancies. Sometimes the value exchanged is tangible (e.g. money), some other times is more abstract (e.g. trust): treating hard and soft aspects in a consistent way gives a clearer picture of what keeps or can keep each entity engaged.

Value added

The map is able to provide a comprehensive view of the system and highlight aspects that may have not been considered earlier, such as: missing feedback loops toward a specific actor, repetition of similar flows of data multiple times, presence of external elements that could play a role in the analysed service.

Thinking ahead

The circle-based structure is just one option, it would be interesting to explore different visual shapes!

Recruiting Short-cuts
Ecosystem Maps

Check the Service Design Tools archive