Navigating Complex Human Systems
The Sensemaking Practice: Narratives Signification, Interpretation and Informing Action 

The sensemaking method has a breakthrough positioning, thanks to its set of clear principles in how we can understand complex human systems or ecologies. Below is a just an extract of some of the principles. With its origins in organisational development, social and anthropological sciences, there is a now a large research and literature base from the past 50 years of its emergence. References to some key publications in sensemaking can be found below. 



Participants are in control of the narrative interpretation process, and the results meaning-making. This means that external 'experts' are disintermediated as far possible, reducing bias at both input and results interpretation ends.



Weak signal detection...sample sizes...leading vs. lagging indicators



The narratives interpretation trade-off questions stimulate new levels of cognitive refelction. Participants gain personal insight from the very process of completing their responses 


Complex systems are defined by their constant dynamic, in negotiating and adapting to internal and external tensions. They can be between competing (but equally valid) values or perspectives. Sensemakng leverages these tensions at the heart of its interpretation framework. 



Complex systems cannot be measured with absolute scales...quantative analysis is still possible thanks to the interpretation frameworks, delivering 'directionality' insight


Complex systems can't be understood by analysing the parts and then reassembling. Sensemaking uses narratives as one of the most powerful ways of observing systems in context. 

Narratives, sensemaking and complexity

The Imperative Beyond Big Data

  • Society and business are facing major ethical questions as data becomes more pervasive, and our lives and services are delivered according to intelligent software platforms. Sensemaking incorporates the lived experience and will be an important 

    • Cathy O'Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
      Crown Publishing Group New York, NY, USA 2016
      ISBN:0553418815 9780553418811

      • O'Neil, a mathematician, analyses how the use of big data and algorithms in a variety of fields, including insurance, advertising, education, and policing, can lead to decisions that harm the poor, reinforce racism, and amplify inequality.