What is sensemaking?

One of our specialties:

'Sensemaking' is a special approach that we have developed under the broad heading of 'Sense and meaning'. 

It is a people-centred approach to understanding decision-making based on a blend of anthropology and social psychology. We have adapted this idea from the 'sensemaking' concept developed by Karl Weick  which is usually used for organisational decisions. We think it works well for:

  • Organisational decisions
  • Decisions made by couples and families
  • Difficult decisions made by individuals

Our focus is always on how people actually make decisions and actually behave in the real world.

As a research agency, we are going out on a limb here, challenging the research industry to stop pretending that people make decisions in some kind of individualistic choice-modelling kind of way. Real people lead busy lives, getting things done (sometimes well and sometimes badly) and then moving on to the next thing.  That is what sensemaking is.

Our approach to decision-making research is based on the insight that sensemaking is something that people do naturally

Naturally and without intending to do so, people assign meaning to their experiences. It's an active process often involving how they feel about themselves in that moment. We often find for example, that people 'wade into' situations and then need to make sense of what is happening around them before they can do anything. 

Sensemaking research is a challenge to behavioural economics

  • Sensemaking projects are about how people actually behave in the real world not how they behave in experiments - which is where most of the behavioural economics theories originate.

  • Sensemaking projects are non-judgmental. We don't say that people are flawed in their thinking. We say that people think the way they do to get things done in the best possible way they can at the time. Our job is to find out how they think.

Three facts about sensemaking research

  1. Sensemaking projects are interview-based projects. 
  2. They are ethnographic in that they seek to understand the person's world in situ
  3. They are based on story-telling. When people want to make sense of what they are doing or bring sense to what just happened to them, they tell a story about it. So, we gain insight into how people make sense of their experiences by listening to how they talk about the decisions they made.

This is fresh thinking. You will not find this kind of research anywhere else. We are always happy to challenge existing ways of doing things.

To find out more go to When to use sensemaking'

Tags: sense-making, Decision Making, Naturalistic decision making, People-centred research

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