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  • Writer's pictureAnne Koch

The Bird's Eye View - Gaining an Overview with Ecosystemic Mapping

Sometimes I would like to be a bird. I could get a better overview of everything. My perspective would change. Previously hidden patterns and structures would be visible. AND the overview would help me not to get lost directly in the details, but to see what is really important.

I admit, keeping a bird's eye view is harder and harder for me. Everything seems interwoven. Every decision has an impact on different areas of life. The question comes up more and more often in my mind: How can I shape my life without losing myself? Where are the "acupuncture points" that really change things?

I haven't found a definitive answer yet, but as part of Laura Storm's "Regenerative Leadership Journey" (see our blog post "Wintering"), I came across a tool that makes reality at least a little more tangible and broadens the view: the Ecosystemic Map.

In today's interconnected world, it is quite crucial for companies, organizations and even individuals to comprehensively understand their environment. Ecosystemic mapping is a great way to do this by visually representing the various actors, relationships, and interactions within a system.

See here for two examples of an Ecosystemic Map from organizational and private contexts:


Illustration Storm&Hutchins, "Regenerative Leadership"


Illustration Storm&Hutchins, "Regenerative Leadership"

Here are some concrete tips on how you can apply this method for yourself:

  1. Choose an appropriate visualization tool: there are different tools and techniques for Ecosystemic Mapping, depending on your specific needs and preferences. I like to use Mural for visualizations of all kinds. Miro even offers an ecosystemic mapping template. Alternatively, you can consider specialized ecosystem mapping tools specifically designed for this type of task. Or you can go old school and use crayons and paper or Post-Its. Choose a tool that allows you to clearly depict relationships and flexibly edit them.

  2. Define your ecosystem: Before you start mapping, it is important to have a clear understanding of your specific ecosystem. Identify the external and internal key players and dynamics that play a role in your system (e.g. in your organization or in your personal life context). In your organization on the outside these are e.g. customers, suppliers, investors, cooperation partners, networks etc. Internally, these can be the managers, colleagues, but also the corporate culture, the stress level, the basic mood, the work-life balance, training options, etc.

  3. Arrange your actors and dynamics: Start by placing your actors on your mapping surface. For example, you can use circles, boxes, or other symbols to represent the actors. Position the actors to reflect their relevance and influence within the system. Use hierarchical or other structural approaches to shape the arrangement. For example, Laura Storm places the external actors and dynamics on the left and the internal actors and dynamics on the right (see example above).

  4. Draw relationships: After placing your actors, connect them with lines or arrows to show the relationships between them. Use different types of connections to indicate different types of relationships. For example, dashed lines might indicate potential relationships, while solid lines represent existing relationships. Also use different colors to distinguish different types of actors or relationships. For example, red lines could represent difficult relationships, yellow lines could represent neutral relationships, and green lines could represent positive relationships.

  5. Ask questions and draw conclusions: Now look closely at your map. What is surprising? What feels good? Where do you feel heaviness or sadness? What dynamics have the greatest impact on the well-being of your organization? Where are the levers for change? Which relationships need more attention, which ones should you or should you let go of? What could you personally do next in concrete terms? Ideally, you also look at your ecosystem together as a team or as a family and decide together what change needs to happen.

Ecosystemic mapping is a great way to visualize and understand complex ecosystems, whether your personal ecosystem or your business ecosystem. Visualizing actors and relationships gives you the bird's eye view I mentioned at the beginning and helps you find the "acupuncture points" for sustainable change.

Twin Tip: An ecosystem is a dynamic system that changes over time. It's important to update your Ecosystemic Map regularly to reflect changes and developments in your environment. New players might emerge, existing relationships might change. Also, don't stop yourself with the demand for perfection! Your Ecosystemic Map will never be perfect;o) Just see the map as a starting point for the reflection process and develop it regularly as described above.

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