Tag: Rise of SenseMaking


Future Work Skills 2020: SenseMaking

We see the rise of SenseMaking continuing with recognition now widespread as is evidenced by this Future Work Skills 2020 Report based on insights by Institute for the Future in California.

“As smart machines take over routine manufacturing and service jobs, there will be an increasing demand for the kinds of skills that remain difficult for machines to perform. We call these higher-level thinking skills that cannot yet be codified sense-making. These skills help us create unique insights that are critical to decision making.”

“….although data-mining and analytics tools can be effective at finding these kinds of connections, they cannot effectively contextualize these findings. It takes a human to assemble data and correlations and turn them into rich stories that garner attention. Humans also integrate values, morals, ethics, and other preferences in decision making.” 

One difference between this perspective by Future Institute and that of Humantific is that we utilize Visual SenseMaking not only to inform convergent “decision making” thinking but also to inform divergent idea-making thinking. We already know that both are required for effective change making in the context of organizations and societies.

See our previuosuly published SenseMaking is Rising.

For the full picture see our previously published NextDesign Geographies.

Although we have no connection to the creators of the “Future Work Skills 2020 Report” we could not help but notice that the 10 drivers highlighted in this report all connect to what Humantific is already doing in the present…:-)

1. Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.

2. Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

3. SenseMaking: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.

4. Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.

5. Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings.

6. Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.

7. Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

8. Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.

9. New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

10. Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes


Future Not Working? Call SenseMakers!

We were delighted to see Cathrine Armitage’s article: “Call in the SenseMaker, The Future Isn’t Working” in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Web designer? So last century.”

“In the future your children and their children will be doing jobs we can scarcely imagine now. Their titles will be as wacky to us as ”software developer” must once have been to a baby boomer. Try making sense of a ”virtchandise manager”, an ”outcome aggregator”, a ”data evangelist” or even a ”sensemaking analyst”…”

A quick scan of the online recruitment sites confirms the future is already here.”

Of course SenseMaking has already evolved into much more than “data analysis.” Today SenseMakers are already being called upon to make sense of many complex situations in organizations and in societies. Often those complexities are abstract and not data based. In fact data based sensemaking is a small subset of what leading Visual SenseMakers do.

SenseMaking has indeed become the 21st century FUEL for ChangeMaking!

The Rise of SenseMaking continues!


Lecture at IESE Sold Out!

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Humantific CoFounder, Elizabeth Pastor presented SenseMaking for ChangeMaking at IESE’s Graduate Business School in New York City last night.

Elizabeth explained how Humantific has, for more than ten years, been working closely with business leaders in many industries who are engaged in driving change in their organizations. Elizabeth talked about the rising interest in the subjects of SenseMaking and ChangeMaking and how Humantific started connecting them together years ago, developing new knowledge, tools and an interconnected training program.

Connecting SenseMaking and ChangeMaking Humantific helps organizational leaders tackle complex fuzzy challenges and embed the capability to do so into their organizations.

Today we recognize that SenseMaking has already become the 21st century FUEL for ChangeMaking.

Elizabeth will be speaking at IESE in Madrid soon, so our Spanish friends stayed tuned!

See related from IESE:

See more of Humantific’s work:
Liquidnet Markets for Good: Strategic Planning
Sermo: Making a Company Understandable


Making Sense of Industries

We love and respect the complex history of what has become the sensemaking profession today. Here are more example images from Humantific’s Isotype Institute Collection. These are from 1955.

The Vienna-based Isotype Institute team, active in the 1920s-1950s, is widely recognized as an early pioneer in the commercial application of visual sensemaking. They applied their unique skill-set to the explanation of many business subjects, in addition to their social subjects work. These “Isotype Charts” are part of a 16-diagram series that explains the chemistry, manufacture, and use of plastics, with an emphasis on their application in the building industries. They appeared in the 1955 book, entitled Plastics and Building.

Isotype Institute work was not always focused on driving towards changemaking. In examples like this one, their focus was on explaining existing conditions within industries—what we would call the “today” picture—without any particular reference or speculation about the “tomorrow” picture.

Today, Humantific would consider this to be part of the Yin (without the Yang) component of changemaking. Pictures of “today” are not only helpful in constructing collective understanding of existing conditions—they are also great jumping-off points for cocreating futures.

We might point out that Isotype Institute was not just making sense of data-sets and information. They were looking at, and deciphering, many complex phenomena taking place in the field of focus, much of it rather abstract—including processes, chemical compositions, and various applications. They were using skills which can be referred to as information design, but they were not just designers of information. They could make sense of any subject, regardless of its state. From the Humantific perspective, they were early professional sensemakers. Their professional sensemaking often informed and accelerated the everyday sensemaking of others operating in organizational settings and in the public realm.

The output of Isotype Institute is immensely impressive and still highly influential today.

More on Isotype Institute

More on Otto Neurath, Gerd Antz & Maria Neurath

Note: For those interested in the finer points of Information Design history, we will point out three additional details:

1. Design was not a word that was used within Isotype Institute.

2. Isotype images were not made by individuals, but rather by a collaborative effort, within which the ‘Transformer” played a significant role—acting as Mediator, Organizer, Shaper between the information research and the graphic form.

3. Otto Neurath died in 1945, at the age of 63. Some see significant differences in images acredited to Isotype made after this date.

Image Source: Mactaggart, E. F. and H. H. Chambers. Plastic and Building. 1955. Diagrams designed by the Isotype Institute. Humantific Collection, New York.


Social Visual SenseMaking / InfoGraphics 1890

Humantific Teaching Visual SenseMaking


Thoughts on THINK

Last week, the Humantific team took a field trip to Lincoln Center to see the THINK Exhibit. Sponsored by IBM in honor of their centennial, it showcases the tech giant’s many achievements in science, business, and everyday life, as well as current efforts to solve global challenges.

A tremendous amount of sensemaking and synthesis appears to have gone into the interactive experience. The entrance to the exhibit features a 123-foot-long data wall that pulses with glowing visualizations of data collected by sensors around New York City. Inside, a short film about “making the world work better” is displayed on seven-foot-tall, interactive touch screens. The film outlines a clear process of innovation: seeing, mapping, understanding, believing, and acting. By following this model, IBM proposes we can untangle complex systems and engage in meaningful interventions that make the world work better for us.

Overall, we found the exhibit inspiring, beautiful and engaging. Although the exhibit recently closed, we hope that IBM will extend the experience beyond this one-time event and allow more people to enjoy it.

Read Edward Rothstein’s review of the exhibit here:
Data as Art, as Science, as a Reason for Being | New York Times


Meet Me at MoMA

Every month MoMA opens its doors to people with Dementia and their caregivers for a special visit. These guests don’t walk around the whole museum. Rather, they focus on four or five works in depth and engage in a conversation with the MoMA staff about the importance of those works in the history of art. In January, they discussed the meaning of tradition and innovation and related it all to the theme of “New Beginnings.”

The pace, structure, and theme have the purpose of making art accessible to people with dementia, considering their experience with the disease: memory loss, disorientation, problems with language and abstract thinking.

The MoMA Alzheimer’s Project is the nationwide expansion of MoMA’s art and dementia programs, including Meet Me at MoMA, the Museum’s outreach program for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

The project broadens the reach of MoMA’s art and dementia programs through the development of resources that can be used by museums, assisted-living facilities, and other community organizations serving people with dementia and their caregivers.

For more information:


Stick Figure Adventures

On Huffington Post: The enduring and very versatile stick figure, so important in visual sensemaking!

Huffington Post | 7 Worst Stick Figure Injuries by Doug Lansky


Social SenseMaking for Social Innovation

Now for some good news: Interest continues to rise in the role the Social SenseMaking is playing in Social ChangeMaking!

If you are interested in this subject see this:  Elizabeth Pastor, Robert Horn, Hans Rosling, Nic Marks, Seth Flaxman, Christopher Burke, Regina Rowland gave talks on the subject at Data Designed for Decisions conference in Paris in July 2009.

Data Designed for Decisions Best-of Coverage


Mozilla’s Privacy Icons

Earlier this year, Mozilla convened a privacy workshop that brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers in online privacy. As a result, a series of  Privacy Icons were proposed. These icons would be “bolted on” to the existing privacy policies, and they are meant to make an iron-clad guarantee about how a company treats your data. (“Data” refers to your name, ip address, email address, or other data associated with some personally identifiable aspect of your identity.)

Where are the information design police when you need them?

Read more about Mozilla’s Privacy Icons


A Century Apart in NY Times

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The just published report A Century Apart was referenced by David Brooks in the New York Times today. The article entitled The Limits of Policy makes use of the social sensemaking contained in the A Century Apart report.