Let’s utilize our capacity a bit to bring to the moment both imagination of the future and the remembrance of the past before the conference begins.
Sensemaking is a term that gets thrown around a lot without much consideration about where the concept came from or what it really means.
What does it really means?
An interesting landmark volume about sensemaking is Professor Karl Weick’s, Sensemaking in Organizations (1995). Weick tells us to learn about sensemaking by thinking about how we are learning about sensemaking. Read some of the text, he says. Set it aside. Consider it. Observe how you apprehend and integrate the ideas into what you already know.
Articulate what you think you know about your learning. See that? That’s it. What you are observing and articulating is sensemaking in action. Of course, there’s a great deal more to sensemaking than that – some two hundred pages worth of ideas in just one of Weick’s books; and Weick is just one of a dozen or so people who are affiliated with the idea of “sensemaking.”
Within organizational theory, Weick was the first to articulate sensemaking as a coherent framework for. We’ve italicized the key terms that Weick uses to represent his heuristics:
- Sensemaking is matter of identity: it is who we understand ourselves to be in relation to the world around us.
- Sensemaking is retrospective: we shape experience into meaningful patterns according to our memory of experience.
- How and what becomes sensible depends on our socialization: where we grew up in the world, how we were taught to be in the world, where we are located now in the world, the people with whom we are currently interacting.
- Sensemaking is a continuous flow; it is ongoing, because the world, our interactions with the world, and our understandings of the world are constantly changing. You might also think of sensemaking as perpetually emergent meaning and awareness.
- Sensemaking builds on extracted cues that we apprehend from sense and perception. Cognition is the meaningful internal embellishment of these cues. We articulate these embellishments through speaking and writing – the “what I say” part of Weick’s recipe. In doing so, we reify and reinforce cues and their meaning, and add to our repertoire of retrospective experience.
- Sensemaking is less a matter of accuracy and completeness than plausibility and sufficiency. We simply have neither the perceptual nor cognitive resources to know everything exhaustively, so we have to move forward as best as we can. Plausibility and sufficiency enable action-in-context.
How can we put these ideas into action when we think about the sense-making process in Higher Education?
As the Education Conference Planning Committee we hope that we inspired you to think about this question. It could serve you in three ways: 1. Prepare your mind for the speakers during the conference, 2. Inspire you to become a speaker at the conference or discuss it with others during one of the Open Space meetings.
Source: Karl Weick’s, Sensemaking in Organizations (1995).