Mapping Ecosystems

I'm a visual thinker. At the ephemeral border between my conscious and unconscious mind, the knowledge graph in my head is projected into my mind's eye, then translated to words, then into sounds, when I decide to speak. The point being, data exists about the world and much of that data is relationships between objects. And understanding the relationships between data moves into the territory of deriving value from data, which is why I'm writing about mapping.

Different techniques, common ends

I've tried brainstorming, gamestorming, concept mapping, workflow-mapping, dumping and sorting, journey mapping, story mapping, story boarding, 6-ups, needs assessment, requirements gathering, customer interviews, and just plain old sketching.

These tactics are designed to 1) elicit information and 2) encode information to some extent, so that it becomes useful in upstream activities - such as proposal writing or product management.

Co n ti n u i ty

Or the lack thereof. In my experience, these generative activities are short-lived, instances of focused energy. Yet, the activities cease and the energy dissipates as well.

Product and software teams combat this tendency with lists, Kanban Boards, and backlogs. Each of which function as a single-source-of-truth. Yet, these living digital documents don't lend themselves to planning movement; increasing situational awareness.

Recently, I've re-discovered Wardley Mapping and it has re-kindled my interest in the motion, or animation of the systems models we've created. Wardley Mapping recognizes the implicit evolution in market products from "Genesis", then "Custom-built", then "Product-ized", then "Commodit-ized".

This sense of motion makes the process and deliverable of Wardley maps much more useful than alternative static mapping methods.

Other examples

http://radar.urban.us is an interesting example a visualized ecosystem. A radar chart, split into B2B, B2G, and B2C segments, an implicit spatial positioning occurs.

The Agency data provided includes:

  • name
  • url
  • sector
  • type
  • tags
  • image

Certain attributes are used for certain reporting needs. And certain reports require certain attributes + perhaps additional modeling and processing (data-science). The trick is to find continuity between the spectrums.

I think it'd be great to be able to dynamically generate either of these charts from the same base layer of data. Afterall, a radar chart, or a Wardley map are but specific encoding formats for underlying data models. And those data models relate directly to the domain under study or observation.

Understanding the ongoing behavior of complex systems requires modeling diligence - both in terms of scribing a domain, but also infusing the data with meaningful and accurate behavior translated from the domain.


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Afomi is the digital sandbox of Ryan Wold. This site, like myself, is a work in progress. I am always evolving it to better share my inspirations and aspirations.

About

Ryan is a systems-thinking Product Developer and Designer who practices agile, test-driven, and lean software delivery, while solving problems with people.