Where my interest in sensemaking came from

"Does that make sense?"

Do you ever say 'does that make sense?" If you don't say it yourself, do you hear it said? 

A few years ago, I kept noticing how often I said it, and how often I heard it said. It got me thinking. We all know what 'makes sense' means, but somehow these words are missing from the typical researcher lexicon. Researchers talk about 'decisions', 'choices', 'motives, 'drives', 'needs' and 'attitudes'. When I looked around, no researcher was talking about 'making sense' even though it is a phrase we use in our everyday lives all the time. 

I wondered whether there was anything in the social science literature about 'making sense'. What I discovered was a huge body of work in cognitive psychology, human intelligence, artificial intelligence and design about 'sensemaking'.

In design thinking and CX, it is used to describe a process which is part analysis, part ideation. 

For Insights teams, sensemaking has two applications:

  1. There is huge potential in understanding how customers and users 'make sense of' their experiences. 
  2. Any Insight team that has been overwhelmed by vast amounts of data could also benefit from some sensemaking skills.

Let me know if you would like to chat more about this.




Making sense of change and complexity

If your market or category is changing, we can help you make sense of those changes. We do that by uncovering how your customers are making sense of it. We use deep qualitative research methods to do this.

While the ability to 'make sense' of our experiences is one of the most fundamental aspects of human cognition, people are not usually aware of this process. As social scientists, we know that people make sense of things by seeing patterns and interpreting what they see according to multiple factors: their emotions, their expectations, their social and cultural norms and their sense of identity. When the environment changes, people have to make sense of it all over again.  Humans do this naturally and without conscious awareness. That is why we need intensive qualitative research to explore and uncover these factors.

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Understanding Retirees using Sense-Making

For our paper ‘Sense-making for Exploratory Qualitative Research’ for the 2018  AMSRS Conference, Suzanne and I interviewed some recent retirees about what it was like to retire. In these interviews, we tested out our new ideas about sense-making. 

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