By Linda Fisher Thornton
“The pace of change in our world is increasing exponentially, but sensemaking – a necessary tool to navigate these turbulent waters – is unseen, undervalued and underdeveloped.”Deborah Ancona, Michele Williams, and Gisela Gerlach, The Overlooked Key to Leading Through Chaos, MIT Sloan Review
Richard J. Cordes writes in Making sense of sensemaking: What it is and what it means for pandemic research (Atlantic Council), that “Sensemaking is our brain’s response to novel or potentially unexpected stimuli as it integrates new information into an ever-updating model of the world.” While the research on Sensemaking is deep and complex, there are some practical questions leaders who are trying to make good decisions and help others make sense of a torrent of information can use to begin to identify and map out meaning.
“‘Structuring the unknown’ is also a social issue: as people’s projects and actions are interdependent, they have to make sense together so they canFlorence Allard-Poesi. The Paradox of Sensemaking in Organizational Analysis. Organization, SAGE Publications, 2005, 12 (2), pp.169-196. ff10.1177/1350508405051187ff. ffhal-01251211f
be successfully defined and pursued.”
Leaders who make sensemaking a priority will not only make better decisions themselves, they’ll also help employees make better decisions. People don’t just need leaders to share relevant data, they need them to share observations and insights about what data means and why the meaning is important. They need leaders to make sense out of information, including helping them answer questions like these:
Questions For Moving From Data to Meaning
Adapt these questions and add your own to create your own framework for interpreting information together and determining what it means for the project, the team, and the organization.
- What do we see when we look at this situation from different perspectives or through different lenses?
- What patterns and themes do we see across sources?
- How does it relate to/integrate with other information?
- What are our constituents saying about it?
- How can we interpret this information?
- Why should we use this information?
- How does it enhance our understanding of our successful future?
- What questions does it raise?
- What does it mean for us?
- Why does it matter?
- What does it change?
- What anecdotes and stories will help us share this with others?
Sensemaking: Framing and Acting In the Unknown, by Deborah Ancona, MIT, Sage
Structuring For Sensemaking: The Power of Small Segments, Cyndi Suarez, Non Profit Quarterly
Sensemaking 101: Tips For Improving Your Sensemaking in a Time of Confusion, Phoebe Tickell, Medium
The Cynefin Framework: Making Sense in Complexity, Jennifer Garvey Berger (Video), Defense Information School (DINFOS)
The 5 Fundamentals of Sensemaking in an Ever-Changing World, Ranjit Sidhu, Changequest
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