Sensemaking for qualitative insight

Sensemaking is a generous and innovative way to think about people.

Sensemaking is a holistic way of thinking about people and how they live their lives and make the decisions they make.

When we adopted sensemaking a few years ago as a core qualitative insight method we stopped designing the typical ‘question and answer’ format of qualitative research interview. Instead, we see the researcher as a kind of mentor, helping the person they are speaking to introspect and bring their memories and emotions to the conversation.

To do this, we created sensemaking – a holistic way of thinking about people – that led us to a unique non-linear conversation format that allows the person we are talking to to describe and define in their own words the world that they are experiencing and how they navigate it.

We ask people to tell their story in their own way. This is about their lived experience. People have a drive to share their experiences. How they tell their stories reveals the cognitive frames they are using to make sense of the world, and their language.

We focus on actual behaviour, in context. As well as the behaviour itself we set out to learn what preceded the behaviour, including all of the false starts, the changes of mind, and the uncertainties.

Then we focus on what happens afterwards, particularly the stories that people tell about what happened. We listen carefully to how they tell the story – what they say, how they say it, what they emphasise and what they do not mention.

We use sophisticated questioning and projective and enabling techniques to go behind and beyond the story we have been told.

We believe in the power of talk

Observing behaviour on its own is not enough. We need to learn about the false starts and changes of mind that could occur over months or years. As researchers we are deeply respectful of how much we all learn from each other through talk. Talk is one of the defining characteristics of being human. Let’s not ignore it.

Contact us for more.

Susan Bell Founder & Lead Consultant
Sue Bell, Founder & Lead Consultant

We would love to hear from you, and are always happy to talk through research methods and options with you, if you are not sure what you need. Why not get in touch for a free, obligation-free, and confidential conversation.

Find out more about Susan Bell Research.

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