O.K.A.C. #1: Intro to sensemaking, aka “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?”

Operation Kick Ass Comps topic #1: Intro to Sensemaking

Writing and talking about sensemaking makes my brain hurt. When I
think I “get it,” I don’t. Case in point: This short post took me three
days to write. Oi!

Every day we “make sense” of the world around us, contextualizing people and events, and moving along. This sense-making is mostly automatic. I pucker my lips at Mr. T, he immediately interprets that as a request for kissing (usually!). I see a bee coming at me, I swat it away. I wave at someone, they instantly wave back. Small interpretations help us to quickly categorize and react to the hundreds of things that happen to us everyday.

More interesting is to think about sensemaking as a meaning-making process.

As written by my favorite theorist*, Karl Weick, sensemaking is exemplified in the phrase “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” That not exactly intuitive question gets at the heart of sensemaking. It’s about how we actively make meaning and organize our world in social, retrospective and identity-bound ways. It’s especially critical when trying to understand organizations.

How do groups organize? How do groups learn? What is decision-making really like in organizations? How do people decide what to do in times of crisis? How do organizations develop and maintain identity? How do individual identities relate to organizational identities? What happens when sense “breaks”? Sensemaking, and its related concepts sensegiving and sensebreaking, offer a framework with which to address these questions.

In subsequent posts, I’ll describe seven fundamental aspects of sensemaking, and tackle some of the above questions. In the mean time, what questions does this post prompt? Do tell.


* You know you’re a huge nerd when you have a “favorite theorist.” What can I say?

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