Sensemaking is when someone influences others so that they can adopt the interpretation of the sensegiver through various communicative tools like the use of rhetoric, producing stories, use of roles, embodying and performing. For instance, politicians convince their followers such that they can adapt their goals or visions. The project of sensemaking is based on three assumptions regarding practice in communication. The first assumption is that it is possible to implement and design communication practices and systems that are responsive to human needs. The second one is that there is a possibility for enlargement of human repertoires pursuing the vision. The third assumption is that to achieve the results; there is need to have communication-based methodology approaches. If the theory of sensemaking is democratizing, then it is a good thing.
Sensemaking has seven aspects according to Weick. The first element is identity construction. There is no possibility of having sensemaking if there is no a sense-maker. It is as such that one can assert that it is in the eye of the beholder that one perceives sense. No one individual acts like a single sense maker yet sense-maker is singular. Each is unequal and carries a lot of identities. The second aspect of sensemaking is retrospective. It is after a specific time that there is a reflection of the process. However, this gets done afterward. It is the success of the process that determines the aspect looking afterward in a process. It is through the retrospection aspect that the past appears cleaner than the future or present. All the same, it is not possible to make the past transparent. The fourth element of sensemaking is sensible and enactive environments. In organizational life, it is people who produce the kind of situation they face (Colville, Pye, & Brown, 2016). Action plays a crucial part for sensemaking. It is not possible for people to command and then expect the environment to obey. Besides, it is not possible to predict what will exactly happen since everything becomes part of the larger truth.
It is through sensemaking that critical organizational processes and outcome get accomplished. Strategic changes trigger sensemaking through interventions. There is a recursive relationship between sensemaking and change. Sensemaking between leaders and their followers achieves strategic change. If leaders are in a position to influence their followers or members in sense-making, those individuals get motivated to make a difference in their practices and roles. They as well affect others in co-constructing ways and explaining the vision. The actions and interpretations of middle managers are crucial in the translation of high aspirations to local changes. The changes do not only keep the business moving but also underpin the vision of the company during the transition. Therefore, actors do creates organizational order through sensemaking concerning strategies and structures offering plausible feedback to environmental changes. Besides, they use the approach in explaining how it can be implemented and at the same convincing others on values of the changes. Another layer of understanding sensemaking in strategic changes include social culture, interpersonal, as well as institutional context.
If sensemaking fails, then there must be a change initiative in the business. It, therefore, means that sensemaking can either inhibit or produce a change in an organization. If leaders lead others in understanding the future, the strategic shift gets instigated. As such, it creates orders through the new meaning of a team and guiding vision. All the same, if there are deterrents to sensemaking by whatever form, the organization struggles in engaging change processes.
Another heuristic value of sensemaking is learning. It is a fundamental process for determining in teams, individuals and organizational members. Researchers have indicated crisis context where it becomes crucial learning from error. For instance, sensemaking in leader’s response to a roof collapse facilitates learning through reduction of ambiguity. The ambiguity is generated by the destruction as well as updating the members of organizational about the unrealized potential and weaknesses. Through the realization, there is strengthening and revision of the regulatory inadequacies equipping it for the future (Aguinis, & Glavas, 2017). Another use of sensemaking is in the air force pilots who reveal its value in learning from error.
Sensemaking is essential especially when there is high ambiguity in an environment. However, this can be a feature inherent to context operations or acute situation caused by a sudden disaster. Despite ambiguous setting triggering sensemaking it is difficult in making sense of; actions muddy. It is also difficult to understand the relationship between outcomes and measures. Learning, in this case, can be endangered especially face to face communication. In this case, knowledge is endangered in at all levels through enabling individuals to have a better understanding of themselves.
Sensemaking enhances creativity and innovation. A body of work as long as it is growing connects sensemaking to creative processes and change. Being creative in this case refers to the production of novel ideas while innovation refers implementation of plans. However, there is a suggestion that the prior framework prevents individuals from perceiving things from a different point of view. Besides, it can make people have positive force for creativity for identity sensemaking. According to multilevel model, it is episodes of sensemaking that drives the processes of creativity. The events create a negotiated belief that stays until there is crisis again. If there is shifting of power balancing, there is an engagement of different actors, and at the same time, creativity gets fueled in the new belief structures emerging from multiparty sensemaking. It is through sensemaking that there is progress in the creative process.
To have innovative firms, it is good is good to have organizational sensemaking. It should be noted that there differences in more and less innovative companies. The differences can be seen in how people frame market and technology knowledge in businesses. Innovative firms are engaged in knowledge practices as well as business practices through which the knowledge practices are part of the relationships in which the problem gets solved. As such, they have a shared understanding of the goal and ready to settle any unexpected issues. On the other hand, less innovative have no frame that encourages sensemaking. To them, technology and market knowledge are separate factors of production. The difference is that in the latter there no intersubjective meaning.
One can state that sensemaking is naturally part of human brain. It means that they are hardwired to recall and recognize patterns and at the same responding to them. Humans tend to apply models in their lived experienced materials imposing order on the lived experience. In this case, one can think of sense-making as frames of mind (Steigenberger, 2015). Weick encourages people to learn about sensemaking through learning something that they believe concerning sensemaking. In some of her texts, there are phrases such as consider it, set it aside amongst others. In this case, one should integrate and apprehend ideas into what is already known. An individual should articulate what he or she thinks about his or her learning. It, therefore, means that whatever one is articulating and observing is sensemaking in action.
Weick identifies domains for future research that include sense making interaction with each of emotion, power, distributed sensemaking as well as institutional theory. One area of interest is politics band power in sense-making. Sensemaking has been criticized for insufficient attention to power thus becoming less politically naïve. There are multiple competing accounts of organizations exploring political processes. In this one, there are legitimacy interpretations while in others they evaporate.
Sensemaking can also be understood as an emotional process. As previously noted, there are accounts of sensemaking that describes it as shared thought and constructed language narrative. On earlier reports regarding sensemaking, there was little efforts and attention on emotional qualities. As a result whenever an expected interruption occurs there was a reduction of emotion to autonomic arousal experiences. However, there is now better understanding that feeling makes part of sensemaking process.
Another exciting part is the sociomateriality and embodiment in sensemaking. Recently, researchers have focused on embodied nature of sensemaking. It is through this that there is a change in conceptualizing sensemaking. The reason behind this is critiques of sensemaking. The works arise as a rational intellectual process (Basu, & Palazzo, 2008). All the same, it ignores its embodied and embedded nature. There is little recognition of constitutive entanglement as well as materiality organization.
As a conclusion, one must note that there can be a form of limitation in trying to understand an organization if all the seven attributes are present in defining the process of sensemaking. For instance, there is an assumption by the retrospection that there cannot be the occurrence of the unprecedented invention and that it is through the past that one can make sense. Perhaps, levels of retrospection and levels of connection enhance a greater range of explanation. All the same, there are organizational situations without any comparison to be made. However, this means that actions must not get overlooked as invention opportunity
Aguinis, H., & Glavas, A. (2017). On corporate social responsibility, sensemaking, and the search for meaningfulness through work. Journal of Management, 0149206317691575.
Basu, K., & Palazzo, G. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: A process model of sensemaking. Academy of management review, 33(1), 122-136.
Colville, I., Pye, A., & Brown, A. D. (2016). Sensemaking processes and Weickarious learning. Management Learning, 47(1), 3-13.
Steigenberger, N. (2015). Emotions in sensemaking: a change management perspective. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(3), 432-451.