Tag: Rise of SenseMaking


SenseMaker Dialogs Registration Opens


SenseMaker Dialogs 2
Rethinking the Boundaries of SenseMaking

Registration is now open!


Richard Saul Wurman
Garry K. VanPatter


Date: February 16th (Evening)
Location: Parsons The New School for Design, NYC


Go here to register:

SenseMaker Dialogs speaker series focuses on exploring the rapidly changing hybrid activity of SenseMaking in the 21st century.

No longer just focused on data and information visualization, the boundaries of what sensemaking is and what sensemakers do in the context of organizations and society is in a state of rapid transformation like never before.

Leading sensemakers today have become integral to many forms of changemaking occurring in organizations and in societies around the world.

In SenseMaker Dialogs, speakers from diverse backgrounds will explore these shifts.

Each talk features two speakers.

This February 16th evening event is being held in the Theresa Lang Community & Student Center at Parsons The New School for Design, 55 West 13th Street in Manhattan.

See more details here:


You can join Social SenseMaking on Facebook.

You can join SenseMaker Dialogs on Facebook.


Wurman Speaks at SenseMaker Dialogs


Pioneering SenseMaker, Richard Saul Wurman will speak at SenseMaker Dialogs in New York on February 16, 2010!

Official online registration will open soon.

Sponsors: Humantific & Parsons, School of Design Strategies.

Moderator: Elizabeth Pastor.

Location: Parsons, The New School for Design in Manhattan.

Date: February 16, 20010

Time: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Tickets: $12.


To get on early registration list: email programs (at) humantific (dot) com

What is SenseMaker Dialogs?

SenseMaker Dialogs is a speaker series launched in 2009 focused on the rapidly changing hybrid activity of SenseMaking in the 21st century.

Organized by Humantific in collaboration with Parsons, School of Design Strategies in New York SenseMaker Dialogs celebrates and shares views into the revolutionary wave in sensemaking that is underway in our increasingly complicated world.

Leading SenseMakers today are already involved in much more than data and information visualization. SenseMakers have become integral to many forms of change making occurring around the world.

The boundaries of what sensemaking is and what sensemakers do is in a state of rapid transformation like never before. SenseMaker Dialogs will explore these shifts.

Each talk features two thought leaders engaged in exploring the boundaries of sensemaking.

Join SenseMaker Dialogs on Facebook.

Questions? Send email to: programs (at) humantific (dot) com


The Future of Innovation Published

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Just published and now available: The Future of Innovation.

Humantific, Strategos, IDEO, Mckinsey, IBM, Nokia, Philips, Siemens, and London Business School are among the contributors to the book.

“[Editors] Bettina von Stamm and Anna Trifilova have gathered together the thoughts and ideas of over 200 of the most creative innovators from business, professional practice and academia from nearly 60 countries. The contributors look at innovation from almost every angle. Their statements offer an unparalleled view of innovation and provide a depth of insight that is extraordinary. The editors’ reflection on each statement and on the sections within the book, provide useful links between themes and reinforce the relationships between many of the ideas.

Anyone interested in innovation (student, researcher or practitioner) will benefit from this global thought collection. The contributors’ multiple perspectives, models, practical examples and stories provide a sense of innovation that no single writer could ever capture.”

See here for the entire list of Contributor Affiliations.

The Future of Innovation Book can be ordered here.

Friends of Humantific receive a 20% discount off the retail price by entering this promotion code: G9BPF20

The Future of Innovation Initiative

You can find out more about The Future of Innovation initiative here:

“Welcome to the Future of Innovation: Here over 350 leading thinkers from business, government, consulting and academia from around the globe share their thoughts, experiences, dreams, visions, hopes, concerns, and passions around The Future of Innovation, providing you with insights into tomorrow’s innovation agenda so that you can start acting on it now.”

Humantific’s Complexity Navigation Program

To inquire about how Humantific can help your organization adapt to a continuously changing world by building an inclusive innovative culture that maximizes diverse brainpower send an email to programs (at) humantific (dot) com


The Rise of Visual SenseMaking

First presented in 2005 this diagram is utilized in several public workshops and keynote talks that extends ten years of Humantifc work. CoFounders Elizabeth Pastor and GK VanPatter connect the dots and share views into the relationship between rising complexity of human challenges, the information tsunami and the significant rise of interest in Visual SenseMaking around the world.

Making the distinction between SenseMaking (making the strange familiar) and StrangeMaking (making the familiar strange), Humantific points out a paradigm shift underway across Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 that has enormous implications for 21st century design education as well as strategic design practice.

In a post consumer society it is a brain and skill shift equivalent to the retooling of the industrial era. Making sense of organizational and social complexity in order to get ready for change is very different from focusing on making cool products to consume. SenseMaking requires a different skill-set than StrangeMaking.

For more info see:

GK VanPatter Interviewed by Peter Jones

Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 / The Rise of Visual Sensemaking

Design 4.0 Rocks the House

SenseMaker Glimpse Wraps in New York

More SenseMaker Dialogs coming soon

You can join the open SenseMaker Dialogs group on facebook.


GK VanPatter at Malmö University

Humantific Co-Founder, GK VanPatter will give a free open to the public talk on SenseMaking for ChangeMaking in Malmö, Sweden on November 12, as part of a new speaker series being organized by the MEDEA Societal Entrepreneurship Program at Malmö University.

“MEDEA Collaborative Media Initiative is a center for new media research and development at Malmö University, Sweden. Medea is built around co-production with actors outside academia – companies, organizations, artists, citizens, etc. A special focus is put on the development of new creative practices and on new public spheres.”

Read More on Facebook:


Executive Summary Portrait of Louisiana

For those interested in the just published Portrait of Louisiana and the role of social sensemaking in driving social change an executive summary is now available in PDF form.

For more information on the Measure of America initiative go here:


SenseMaker Dialogs

SenseMaker Dialogs is a new speaker series focused on the rapidly changing hybrid activity of SenseMaking in the 21st century. The series was launched August 13th in New York, sponsored by Humantific and Parsons School of Design Strategies in New York.

SenseMaker Dialogs celebrates and shares views into the revolutionary wave in sensemaking that is underway in our increasingly complicated world.

Leading SenseMakers today are already involved in much more than data and information visualization. SenseMakers have become integral to many forms of change making occurring around the world.

The boundaries of what sensemaking is and what sensemakers do is in a state of rapid transformation like never before. SenseMaker Dialogs will explore these multi-dimensional shifts.

Each talk features two thought leaders engaged in exploring the boundaries of sensemaking.


Elizabeth Pastor
CoFounder, Humantific


SenseMaker Dialogs 1

Marshall Clemens
Founder, Idiagram

Brian Willison
Director, Parsons Institute for Information Mapping

Upcoming Speakers
(Dates to be confirmed)

Richard Saul Wurman

Paolo Ciuccarelli

Elizabeth Pastor


What is SenseMaking?

SenseMaking is primarily a domain of knowledge about how humans make sense of complexity.

Many historical and current definitions exist.

This series seeks to make sense of what 21st century SenseMaking is becoming.


Who is the audience for SenseMaker Dialogs?

Everyone interested in the broad subject of SenseMaking is welcome.

The series is focused primarily on SenseMaking in organizations and societies.


Who should attend SenseMaker Dialogs?

Forward thinking leaders in business and society.

Leaders in organizations encountering mountains of complexity and continuous change.

Those seeking to harness next design thinking in their organizations.

Graduate design education leaders seeking insights into the future of design innovation.

SenseMaking experts seeking to join and help construct a 21st century SenseMaking community.


What are the backgrounds of the guest speakers?

Speakers in SenseMaker Dialogs come from diverse backgrounds.

If you have a suggestion regarding who would make a great speaker let us know.


What industries and societies most need SenseMaking?

The need to make sense of fuzzy complexity applies to every industry and every society.

SenseMaking has already become an integral aspect of many change driving initiatives in organizations and in society.


How can I get involved in SenseMaker Dialogs?

If you would like to become a SenseMaker Dialogs volunteer or sponsor send an email to programs (at) humantific (dot) com


SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: If you would like to become a cosponsor of the SenseMaker Dialogs series, please send an email to programs (at) humantific (dot) com with “SenseMaker Dialogs Sponsorship” as the subject.


You can join:

SenseMaker Dialogs on Facebook

Social SenseMaking on Facebook

Also see GK VanPatter on Karl Weick’s SenseMaking.


SenseMaker Dialogs Coming Soon!


SenseMaker Dialogs is a new speaker series focused on the rapidly changing hybrid activity of SenseMaking in the 21st century. Organized by the Humantific team in New York, SenseMaker Dialogs will celebrate and share views into the revolutionary wave in sensemaking that is underway in our increasingly complicated world.

Leading SenseMakers today are already involved in much more than data and information visualization. SenseMakers have become integral to many forms of change making occurring around the world.

The boundaries of what sensemaking is and what sensemakers do is in a state of rapid transformation like never before. SenseMaker Dialogs will explore these multi-dimensional shifts.

Each talk will feature two thought leaders engaged in exploring the boundaries of sensemaking (speaker list TBD). The first SenseMaker Dialogs session is tentatively scheduled for mid-July in New York. These will be bi-monthly mid-week evening sessions from 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Space will be limited.

Online registration will be opening soon. If you would like to get on the early registration list, send an email to programs (at) humantific (dot) com with “SenseMaker Dialogs” as the subject.

Join the group SenseMaker Dialogs on Facebook!


Visual SenseMaking Workshop Wraps

[slideshow=26]Humantific’s Visual SenseMaking Workshop wrapped up on Saturday at Pratt Institute in New York. Taught by CoFounder Elizabeth Pastor the workshop focused on Visual SenseMaking in the context of organizations. An enthusiastic group that included numerous graduates of NextD innovation workshops spent the day learning how to create their own visual thinking toolbox, unpack complexity and construct strategic stories.

Some Feedback from Participants:
“A great experience”
“On a scale of one to ten : 10”
“Extremely helpful”
“Helps me understand how to map patterns with diagrams”
“Most meaningful: Triggers diagramming words!”
“Everything was useful”
“Most meaningful: Mapping each other”
“Will help me work with my students to frame thesis problems”
“I begin to see how Humantific visualizes complex concepts”
“How can I get really good at this?”

The next Visual SenseMaking workshop will be in Barcelona later this summer.

If you would like to be notified about our future Visual SenseMaking workshops send an email to: programs (at) humantific (dot) com with workshops as the subject.

What is Visual SenseMaking?
Visual SenseMaking is the activity of making sense of ambiguous complex
situations through visual methods and tools including words, images,
drawings, diagrams, charts, graphs, etc. This involves not only visual thinking,
but creating visual ordering systems.

While the skill of Visual SenseMaking can be broadly applied to many life
situations on planet earth, in Humantific workshops we focus on Visual SenseMaking in the context of organizations, organizational situations, systems, processes,
challenges, opportunities, etc.

Is Humantific Visual SenseMaking different?
Yes! The Visual SenseMaking that we teach is not about drawing conversations.
We overlay an adaptable problem solving logic that makes for a much more
robust toolkit applicable to serious business challenges of all types. This
workshop takes you inside the world of Visual SenseMaking at Humantific.
Previously only offered as part of our extensive Complexity Navigation Program,
this new one-day stand-alone session is geared for business leaders who seek
to get started on the road to becoming a Visual SenseMaker. 


SenseMaking / The Karl Weick Question


Hello Humantific readers. As long standing SenseMaking for ChangeMaking practitioners we are often asked this question: How does 21st century SenseMaking practice differ from Karl Weick’s SenseMaking?

Many of our clients and readers know Weick’s work well. Often the question behind the question is: How does that literature, that theory, those constructions fit with what we do at Humantific?

Widely recognized as an important American organizational psychologist and theorist, Karl E. Weick is among the pioneers of the contemporary SenseMaking movement. The author of several important books including SenseMaking in Organizations, his work connects across numerous knowledge communities of practice.

While acknowledging and appreciating Karl Weick, we think it is important to recognize that his work represents only one of several avenues that lead into what is now 21st century SenseMaking. Weick’s avenue is one that happens to have a particular texture, tone, and focus. Other avenues with different textures and tones also exist.

To place Weick in perspective we appreciate this cross-community picture:

In 1989 Richard Saul Wurman published Information Anxiety pointing out “the tsunami of data and information” already crashing on our collective shores and the need to gear up to better digest and make sense of that tsunami.

Six years later in a parallel universe Karl E. Weick published his landmark SenseMaking in Organizations.

Unfortunately, Karl did not know of Richard. The information SenseMaking consciousness and professional precisions that Wurman wrote about in 1989 are completely absent from Weick’s 1995 perspective as is any deeper information architecture/design historical recognition. Of course, it is not so unusual, even today to see one knowledge community not being aware of work going on in another community.

Weick’s work never-the-less contains many insight gems – and for those studying the broad subject of SenseMaking, I would highly recommend reading his many still relevant perspectives. Wurman’s classic, updated Information Anxiety 2 remains required reading at Humantific. In the years since those two books were published interest in SenseMaking has continued to rise, and rise and rise.

Writing in SenseMaking in Organizations in 1995, Weick’s view as an organizational scholar is not exactly aligned with what we do in everyday SenseMaking consulting practice, but there is nothing particularly contradictory there. Today, what SenseMaking has already become significantly extends the pioneering perspectives of Wurman and Weick that were, in themselves, built on the shoulders of many others who came before them. (See Note “Others” below.)

Here are five reasons why 21st century SenseMaking practice differs from Weick’s SenseMaking.

1. More Than Organizations 

Weick was/is focused at the altitude of organizations. As an organizational psychologist writing in 1995, he viewed organizations as complex learning systems. He often referred to organizations being equivalent to level eight on Kenneth Boulding’s (1956) nine level Scale of System Complexity. As important as this altitude view is in the community it is only part of where SenseMaking is focused today. At an even broader altitude, Societal SenseMakers are interested in the application of SenseMaking in less structured society, where different mechanisms come into play. Today both altitudes are extremely activated.

2. More Than Emergence 

Weick saw organizations as “interpretation systems” focused internally and externally. In Weick’s SenseMaking picture, internal organizational actors engage in collective SenseMaking, primarily through discussion, and without any specialized tools or knowledge. As an observer of organizational interpretation, Weick paints a picture of 200% emergence, 100% on the process side and 100% on the content side in a continuous cycle.

The notion of professional SenseMakers – as specialized intermediary enabling actors – does not appear in Weick’s SenseMaking picture. Today SenseMaking is not only a naturally occurring organizational or societal function that everyone participates in, it is also one being addressed by a significant, growing, and rapidly changing industry of professional enablers of organized SenseMaking – sometimes called “Distributed SenseMaking”.

In 21st century organizational and societal contexts where change is now constant, there is not always time for the machinations of 200% emergence. In many organizations, 200% emergence represents the existing conditions that organizational leaders seek to overcome and improve upon. The function of professional SenseMaking in general is to provide frameworks or scaffolds that serve as cognitive accelerators. Unless they intend to conduct an academic study, what organizational leaders are most often seeking are the tools and methods of enabling sensemaking acceleration. While not appearing in Weick’s work, many tools, frameworks and SenseMaking acceleration models now exist in practice. The insights and ideas being generated might be 100% emergent but for professional SenseMakers much has already been learned and the process is not 100% emergent in every application.

3. More Than Words

Weick saw dialogue primarily as words, so was not focused on visualization as an enabler and accelerator of SenseMaking. His work was not about exploring how visualization enhances SenseMaking. In his later 2005 writings, Weick sought to make SenseMaking more action-oriented, but still described it as “turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words.” To Visual SenseMakers today, this orientation and omission contradicts his stated SenseMaking intentions. A key aspect of SenseMaking today is the deliberate construction of balance between words and visuals in recognition of the diverse manner in which humans digest information. This is a large part of what professional SenseMakers operating in organizations are actively engaged in. Not present in Weick’s work, knowledge of how to create that balance is now foundational to all forms of Visual SenseMaking practice.

4. More Than Data

In Weick’s organizational SenseMaking universe, “Operational researchers and other staff personnel perform computations on environmental data and weigh alternatives before proceeding.” Today, making sense of data is only one part of SenseMaking. Those involved in transformation/changemaking by design have already moved beyond data visualization and are enabling collective SenseMaking of the complex challenge/opportunity space, the human activities in the space, the abstract ideas in the space, etc – not just the data or information in that arena.

In the context of an increasingly complex world, SenseMaking has been broadened, repurposed, and reframed to better sync with the activities already underway in transformation practice. This represents significant change for those involved in next generation design practice, transformation practice – whatever you want to call that.

Part of the challenge in studying Weick is that in his writing on the subject of SenseMaking he did not walk the walk as Wurman did. Much of Weick’s writing is jargon-filled, academic, and somewhat impenetrable. Weick was primarily focused on his own scholarly academic tribal audience.

In addition, Weick’s writing on the subject rarely contained visualization. For every 2000 words, you might see one small visual model. The protocols that he was writing to were those of academia, not of diverse cognition.

In contrast, Wurman was interested in directing his insights at the general public. His explanations signaled knowledge of cognitive balancing. Missing from Weick’s work, today this kind of awareness is considered in practice to be part of Visual SenseMaking 101.

5. More Than Learning 

Weick was/is more attuned to organizational learning as a form of action and less oriented towards design, transformation, problem solving or changemaking modes and methods. His three-part process of Scanning, (Data Collection), Interpretation (Data Given Meaning), and Learning (Action Taken) maps primarily to the front-end of transformation process. He makes no methodical connection to the remainder of the transformation cycle. Today SenseMakers with deep innovation methods knowledge are more directly placing SenseMaking in a ChangeMaking methodological context.

Connections are being made not just between interpretation and learning, but between understanding, directly informing ChangeMaking as a form of enlightened deliberate action. Today savy organizations are working on making more robust connections between ongoing SenseMaking and ongoing ChangeMaking. This is Level 10 SenseMaking connected directly to a sharable ChangeMaking cocreation process.

Theoretical Foundations / Forward Motions

Today SenseMaking sits at the intersections of multiple realms of knowledge, underpinned by numerous interconnected theoretical foundations that one can certainly study including: information theory, learning theory, organizational development theory, organizational psychology, knowledge creation theory, cognitive theory, communication theory, systems theory, emergence theory, complexity theory, chaos theory, design theory, innovation theory, social network theory, problem solving theory, anticipatory science theory, futurology & foresight theory, behavioral change theory, transformation by design, etc.

In spite of the zillions of related theories, a lot of great thinking, and considerable research, there is not one solid, encompassing theoretical foundation for what SenseMaking is becoming. Needless to say, we are, at Humantific, interested in participating in the reformulation of what SenseMaking is evolving into. Like so many other realms of knowledge, we recognize SenseMaking as a pattern, a knowledge arena in forward motion.

If you look closely underneath the Design Thinking revolution, we believe you will find that it primarily involves the scaling up of SenseMaking. Inward and outward directed human-centered research has all become part of SenseMaking. For some of us, the scaling up of SenseMaking is the revolution within the Design Thinking and ChangeMaking revolutions.

In 2011 The Institute of the Future in California identified SenseMaking among Future Work Skills 2020. Since then many other organizations have taken interest and have begun capacity building in one form or another. In the global marketplace there continues to be significant interest in onboarding Future Work Skills 2020.

For all the natural born SenseMakers out there, and those who strive to become involved, this is all good news! At Humantific we are delighted to be part of the ever evolving Visual SenseMaking community.

Big thanks to Karl Weick and Richard Wurman for their many contributions.

Hope this is helpful.


Note to Readers: Other Visual SenseMakers

Those studying this subject might be interested to note that Visual SenseMaking in the context of organizations and societies has a very long history.

Fifty or so years prior to the Wurman and Weick publications referenced above numerous societal SenseMaking works were published by Otto Neurath & Isotype, circa 1937-1945. Isotype created an entire SenseMaking visual language toolkit that remains influential still today.

Twenty eight years earlier Willard C. Brinton published Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts in 1917.

Many 19th Century Atlases contained Societal SenseMaking in the form of hand drawn diagrams.

One hundred thirty years prior to Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, and two hundred+ years prior to Wurman and Weick, William Playfair published the landmark Commercial and Political Atlas in 1786.


Humantific: Isotype Building Bridges
Humantific: The Inclusion Factor: Isotype
Humantific: Before During and After Isotype