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What is SenseMaker®

Monitoring and exploring complex processes

SenseMaker® is one of the few hands-on methods that is specifically designed to monitor and explore complex processes from multiple human perspectives. SenseMaker® consists of several micro-narrative collection tools, a pattern detection software and an underlying methodology that adheres to the basic principles of working in a complex space.

Our goal is to utilize the rich context of narrative to inform sensemaking, but also to create objective data in which cognitive bias is minimized and we can place some reliance on the conclusions drawn. In particular, we want to be able to move rapidly from research to action in decision making, allowing the decision maker to move back and forth from an abstract representation of the field as a whole to the raw micro-narrative without mediating interpretative layers.

Understanding daily lifes with micro-narratives

Narratives and more specifically micro-narratives are a fundamental and ancient way by which humans interpret their experience and make decisions. SenseMaker® provides the ability to capture and understand those narratives.

Through the web or app environment the software allows the capture of pictures, recordings and writing in various combinations to reflect how the respondents are making sense of the world.

Reducing cognitive bias with self signification

dsc_0015In a patented method, the respondent then interprets their own story into a series of abstract constructs (‘signifiers’) that feel more like a game than a survey, but allow profound meaning to emerge.

This interpretation adds layers of meaning rather than simply interpreting the story and provides quantitative data to detect visual patterns among stories. The patterns are linked back to the original material enabling a deeper dive into individual stories. If the researcher first look for patterns in the metadata using statistical or visual tools, he or she is less likely to be biased by content and prematurely converge on an interpretation.

Evidence based insights that enables action

ksa-geomapThe output of SenseMaker® is statistical data backed up by explanatory narrative. This means that advocacy is an integral part of the system. Numbers on their own appear objective but are not persuasive; anecdotes on their own may be persuasive but are not objective.

SenseMaker® puts the two together and provides a powerful means of persuasion. It also enables action. Instead of saying “How do we create a culture of X?” we say “How do we create more stories like this and fewer stories like that?” Then, as actions are initiated, we see the impact in real time

Watch also this video in which Dave Snowden, founder of Cognitive Edge, explains in 7 minutes the essence of SenseMaker®.

See also

Abductive reasoning and ambiguity

Stories behind statistics

The pattern basis of human intelligence

  • SenseGuide and SenseMaker®
    • SenseGuide enables organisations world wide to monitor and understand complex change as it happens and providing a way to tap into the potential for change that exists in any complex system – instead of working against it.

      SenseGuide makes use of an own developed process approach, supported with the SenseMaker® software-suite of Cognitive Edge. SenseGuide is appointed by Cognitive Edge as the exclusive license holder for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg.

      For more information call Dave van Mourik at +31 6 3190 2336 or send an e-mail to dave.van.mourik@senseguide.nl

  • Projects overview
    • SenseGuide has developed a variety of innovative monitoring and evaluation concepts based on the SenseMaker® approach, amongst others:

      • Improving food security and preventing malnutrition in Bangladesh
      • Development of the Flourishing Community Index with Cordaid (monitoring of fragile communities in a.o Burundi, DR Congo – awarded by the UK Evaluation Society)
      • Development of the Resilience Community Index with Cordaid in Uganda
      • Assessment of citizen sentiment towards potential reforms in Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030)
      • Inclusive retail channel development in Mozambique
      • Assessment of the youth crime policy for Dutch Department of Security and Justice
      • Monitoring culture change: cases with ING and Dutch Department of Defence
      • Understanding key patterns of social collaboration within NN Group
      • Understanding consumer behaviour for sustainable water management
      • Understanding student behaviour for improving quality of education


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