Playing with SenseMakerTM

On Monday this week, I spent the day with four smart people playing with Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker software and a collection of just over 1500 stories. What was most encouraging was that, up to that point, most of us had used it and looked at material and wondered why we didn’t get it, when everybody else did.

Having been at the core of the project and therefore having a reasonable understanding of how/why the signifiers had been chosen meant that I had the context to look for meaningful patterns in the many stories.

It’s a phenomenally powerful tool, and I realise that for future projects I’m going to budget a lot more time for looking through material. There are so many ways to look at the stories and see how they inter-relate and how different elements and qualities interact that it could wrap me up for days as I strive to find the one magic answer…

…which of course doesn’t exist.

It taps into an old pattern of thinking/concern for me – that what I’m not looking at is more important than what I am looking at. That I’m missing something crucial. (On a bad day, that extends into “that crucial bit I’m missing invalidates everything I am looking at”)

Some of the benefits of Monday – having a bunch of us looking at the same material, coming up with answers and thinking through what they meant (and sometimes they didn’t mean anything) were:

  1. Feeling less stupid as it became apparent we were all getting something from using SenseMakerTM, but none of us felt we were getting as much as we should
  2. Coming up with a rough process to start analysing new sets of data/material as they come in
  3. Knowing some strategies to see the major results quickly and then being able to check for specific pieces

All in all, a very positive experience of a great tool. And I feel less of a chump than when I started…