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Andreas Wettre and Birger Sevaldson

Gigamapping is by many accepted and appreciated as a method to understand complexity, mixing systems thinking and design. Too often, we as teachers see that gigamapping is only used in this first phase of understanding and that the method seems not to be utilized to its potential in the more creative process and throughout implementation. We are also challenging the idea that you need to understand first and then be creative about possible solutions.

Sevaldson argues that designing early is needed to ask “what if” questions (Sevaldson, 2022). This is important to explore the system and how it might react. We think of this as a way of learning more about the system through designing. Also, we have developed a creative process framework (Sevaldson, 2019) that is still in the making. However, we now suggest that designing creatively, even at the very beginning of a systems oriented design process, has its benefits.

After some successful experiments, we have changed our way of teaching. We now get students to design early, very early, and then immediately use the Impact and Threshold Analyses (IMP analyses) (Sevaldson, 2016) on their intervention(s), and we have seen how this creates new insights to go back to the gigamap develop it further and even starting to do an embedded boundary discussion, develop their expert network and get a sensible direction of their project.

Very early, maybe only after 30 minutes of mapping, we ask our students to design an intervention. This is long before they feel they have mapped enough. We ask them for “Any intervention, just challenge yourself to come up with an intervention.” They spend 10–15 minutes designing it—as a very first idea of potential intervention, not developed, not likely to be a very good intervention—just a tool to get further, fast, and to radically change the way of thinking. We decouple the orthodoxy of first knowing and then planning. This sounds radical, even irresponsible. But we do this in the early sketch phase as a means to understand and explore and to introduce creativity as a central tool in understanding systems through systemic design.

With this rough intervention, we introduce the IMP analyses and let the students run through them, all based on assumptions, with (almost) no facts. They look at the intervention through the different elements in the IMP analyses. Usually, this takes 30 minutes.  The IMP analyses introduce organized criticality and reflection, which makes them think twice and change their ideas.

During the IMP analyses, we have observed creativity to flourish, directions being developed, and a lot of the unconscious unknowns being conscious. This again creates energy back into the gigamap, with a more deliberate approach to the unknowns, a more energetic mapping and collaboration.  Sometimes, this even creates more potential interventions that might be developed.

This, we find, is a very useful way of moving back and forth in the double or triple diamond and enhancing both the ability to be aware of emerging ideas. The boundary discussions going on as a natural consequence of this process are an important element of developing systems thinking.


Birger Sevaldson, A. W. (2019). SOD Creative Process Framework.

Sevaldson, B. (2016). Impact and Threshold Analyses (IMP).

Sevaldson, B. (2022). Designing Complexity: The Methodology and Practice of Systems Oriented Design. Common Ground Research Networks.


We have tested this with postgraduate students who are knowledgeable about SOD and gigamapping.

Author-led talk: Birger Sevaldson discusses Designing Complexity: The methodology and practice of systems oriented design. This marks the availability of the affordable PDF version of the book.




Citation Data

Author(s): Andreas Wettre and Birger Sevaldson
Year: 2023
Title: Impact on Creativity
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
Host: Georgetown University
Location: ONLINE
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 10 July 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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