The SenseMaker

While we acknowledge that many organizations have very little appetite for additional surveys and audits, our approach to leadership development and cultural transformation relies on the gathering of self-interpreted narratives to inform the design of context-specific interventions and to establish a baseline from which to monitor for impact.

We make use of a methodology enabled by a tool called SenseMaker®. This software enables a process of collecting qualitative and contextualized data by linking micro-narratives with human sense-making to create advanced decision support, research, and monitoring. This theory-informed practice is based on several foundational sciences including Complex Adaptive Systems theory, and Narrative and Cultural Anthropology. Self-interpreted narratives and Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker® methodology offer an approach that is not typical of commonly-applied culture transformation methods.

This story-based approach enables decision-makers to tap into the “water cooler stories”, those everyday conversations that create and influence the prevailing culture of our organizations. We believe that when leaders understand the day-to-day realities, worries, frustrations & ideas of their people they will immediately know how best to act to facilitate change.

The Sensemaker® approach enables staff from across all levels of the organization to contribute stories of their real experiences in the organization in their own voice. The power of interpretation is given to the storyteller, which empowers participants to tell what they believe their stories mean in the context of overall organizational culture constructs (as opposed to the typical approach of having stories interpreted by experts/analysts).

For each narrative response (micro-story), participants answer a set of purposefully designed questions, collectively referred to as a signification framework. This allows the respondent to add layers of meaning to each unique situation shared. The responses to the signification questions in aggregate provide quantitative data. The stories that convey experiences or observations provide a context for making sense of the quantitative data and patterns. This forms a rich dataset that permits a combined qualitative-quantitative assessment for generating deep insights. On these projects, we work in close collaboration with Dave Snowden and our partners from Cognitive Edge / The Cynefin Company.