Introduction to sensemaking


Sensemaking is a new way to think about customer experience research and decision-making research. 

We have used it to develop a unique form of qualitative research blended with semiotics and discourse analysis. 

Sensemaking is about how people think, feel and behave in complex and changing situations

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Sensemaking research is qualitative, exploratory research

This is a unique form of qualitataive research, where the researcher acts as a kind of mentor.

We see our role as mentors, helping the person we are speaking to realise how they talk and think about this particular issue or problem. 

We have created a unique non-linear interview format that allows the person we are interviewing to describe and define in their own words the world that they are experiencing and how they navigate it.

  1. We ask people to tell their story in their own way. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. We use sophisticated questioning and projective and enabling techniques to go behind and beyond the story we have been told.

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When to use sensemaking in research

Use sensemaking in research:

  • When your customers or users are overwhelmed with data
  • When you are puzzled by they way your customers or potential customers behave.
  • Instead of decision-making research if your market and customers are changing
  • Instead of attitudinal research or motivational research if your product or service is complex
  • Instead of 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.
  • Use sensemaking when your customers' journey is not linear. When people make sense of things, they do not do so in a linear way.  

Blog posts on sensemaking

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