Our sensemaking service came out of the hundreds of interviews we have conducted with people who needed to make difficult decisions because their personal circumstances were changing.  We realised that these difficult decisions often took the form of an ongoing 'making sense' process. The people we spoke to took their time to experiment with different ideas. They started out with certain expectations and then changed their minds in response to their experiences.  They did their best, knowing that this was not necessarily the ideal outcome.  As we say:

"It makes perfect sense, if you think about it - and it is our job as researchers to do that thinking."

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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Sensemaking webinar for the Research Society

Sue Bell gave a webinar for the Research Society in June 2020. It is about the four different types of sensemaking and includes a case study of her work on vegetarianism.

The Research Society webinar is free and available here:

 At the very beginning, you can hear her talking about an earlier event - the QRCA conference on The Future of Qualitative Global Workshop as she was one of the speakers. The QRCA Future of Qualitative event was described as "We welcome qualitative professionals from around the world to join us in exploring what the new frontier of qualitative research will look like and how we can lead the way. Hear from prominent voices in qualitative who will bring insight and perspective to move us through the challenges of 2020 and beyond. Join us for a thoughtful day of presentations, Q&A, and even small group discussion that can bring new context and inspiration to qualitative research."


More about sensemaking conversations

Sensemaking is the process that people instinctively use when in complex and difficult situations to make sense of what is happening and drive what they do. Our sensemaking conversations give the people we speak to the opportunity to think by talking

Sensemaking conversations

Sensemaking conversations is a very new innovative research technique that we have designed to help our clients understand how research participants 'make sense of' complex situations or difficult dilemmas. Examples include life-stage transitions like becoming a parent or starting retirement; social beliefs like vegetarianism; and products and services that are difficult to use - financial services for example.  Complex situations trigger us to automatically try to make sense of them. When make sense of them by doing something, by reflecting on who we are, and by talking. 

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Sensemaking for qualitative research analysis

Sensemaking helps researchers find meaning in qualitative research data.

Sensemaking looks not just at 'what people said' (or did) but at the frame of reference  and assumptions they used for that point or action to be meaningful.

It is used to help make sense of :

  • Qualitative text data (transcripts)
  • Behaviour
  • Artifacts (e.g decorative objects)
  • Visual data (images)
  • Public discourse (media, social media)

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