I see sense making as a bit of an art but also believe there is a science to it. At least to doing it well. I also believe we will have to get better at it since it will be one of the key skills of the 21st century (check out this article on a Future Work Skills 2020 Report that believes the same). Especially when you consider the plethora of information we are going to be bombarded with online which will increasingly become our standard operating environment for work and play (if it isn’t already). This doesn’t mean that’s where we will spend all our time, just where we will turn to for information, and increasingly, for sense making. So I’ve tried to capture the science of it as I see it in this diagram below. This also combines an approach I see at least myself taking in this blog where appropriate.
- Data. This could mean mastering the challenge that is big data. Equally, it could simply be the ability to use some raw quantitative input into anything you are trying to make sense of.
- Experience. The best way to make sense of the world around you is to experience it. Take a trial of a product where possible (ideally free :), interact with an organisation, use a sample.
- Ideas. Without direct experience or data you have only an idea to work with. This can be examined and investigated for its merits. Art would fall into this category but pretty much anything can be explored in it’s raw initial state as an idea.
- Value. Take all your key sources of input and judge them at this stage on what value they deliver or you believe they might deliver. What do you get out of them on a tangible and intangible basis.
- Impact. Next is impact on the audience you believe is the intended one. No matter how small or big, what impact will it make. This can be very subjective because impact is relative to context and think about this as broadly as you can before judging
- Sustainability. In other words, does it have a future. Maybe this is not intended but if it is, how likely is it to exist 5, 10, 20 years from now?
- Own judgement / peer review: These are really only mechanisms to help you judge.
- Theory. One possible outcome could be that you are left with only a theory, because nothing can be proven (but then can anything with absolute certainty). Theory’s are a good starting point for experimentation though and that is often all you can do.
- Strategy. You may be a little more certain and so one bit of output could be a clear strategy if its a big enough piece of work and needs it.
- Actions. Finally, you could either have the actions needed to implement the strategy or simply a clear set of actions to take as a result of your new found knowledge :)