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Making sense of sensemaking

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.

Sense making

  • 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 :)
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Working in a networked world – 10 rules to guide you

This is an old post from past blogs I’ve run that seemed to go down well and so I’m bringing over to this site to keep a record of and tagging them: #archive

Consumers work this way already, they share what they learn about the product, service and company experiences they have every day so that others can learn from this. How often have you benefited from this when you have made a buying decision or experiencing problems? Companies and employees have lagged but are starting to catch-up. For the most part they are ill equipped to work in this way.

For some really good definitions of what we are talking about, this post by Harold Jarche on moving From Hierarchies to Wierarchies is awesome. It includes some great thinking from Jon Husband (Wirearchy)

For some very practical input, Mike Grafham of Yammer has a great post here: Using Networks to spark Networks

I was looking for a set of rules or guiding principles that could easily be understood and implemented to guide aspirants. Some borrowed from the above articles, some my own. What do you think, make sense? Would you add or change any?

Working the network

  1. Working aloud. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of working in a networked way – great primer here. It effectively means being transparent in what you are doing. Benefits are everyone can benefit from your work at an early stage and even influence it to be better. Key here is that not everything has to be perfect before you publish in an open, persistent and searchable environment.
  2. Curate. This is valuable not only to you but to those that you do the work for. It means collecting and categorising the best pieces of work on subjects you or other have contributed to so that the wealth of knowledge in the subject grows and is discoverable.
  3. Connect. Find and involve others that you can bring into conversations or pieces of work. Not always because they have the answers but sometimes because of their unique point of view – they may just solve the problem or provide a unique alternative solution.
  4. Ask, listen and observe. Not all work in a networked world involves active participation or engagement. There is value in lurking. Sometimes you get more this way than by jumping in because you feel you need to.
  5. Create (value and innovation). Having made the last point, there is still probably more to be gained from being a participant than not. What you should be cognisant of when participating is that it adds value and creates something new, ideally, but not always in collaboration with others.
  6. Pay it forward. Showing appreciation and reciprocity are two key tenets of good behaviour in a networked environment. Asking and expecting people to engage in any undertaken with you assumes that you will at some stage give back – it’s just good practice.
  7. Responsive and focused. Sometimes it’s easy to get sucked up into the conversation or flow and lose sight of the goal. Sometimes it’s best to decide quickly (try push for a close or leave the conversation) and move on. Also look at white space for opportunity, where the conversation isn’t or after taking a break.
  8. Integrate into normal work. Working in a networked way is not something you do alongside your work, it is the new work. Seeing it differently means you lose the opportunity to impact your work in positive ways and possibly for others seeing your attempts at working in a networked way as irrelevant.
  9. Find your voice, tell stories and share successes. Working in this new way means working in the open. This is often foreign to many who are also used to older norms. You need to feel comfortable working this new way and that often takes time, to find your confidence, voice and style. And sharing successes, if done in an authentic and captivating way (no pulp case studies) , can become genuinely inspiring to others to create their own successes.
  10. Discovery and triage. Working in this new way requires curiosity and tenacity. You need to always be on the lookout for opportunities to make connections work. You need to have the passion of an explorer, this way you will be motivated and open for anything, even to the crises that will come your way, as in any adventure but with a network behind you, there will always be a way to overcome them.