Using SenseMaker® – emotional intensity

A short one, and one aimed specifically at SenseMaker® users. If that isn’t you, skip this one – nothing to see here…

When I’m building SenseMaker® frameworks, there’s one multiple choice question that I almost always include – and when it’s not finally included, it’s because despite deploying my best persuasive powers the client doesn’t see the need.

The question is:

Sensemaker multiple choice question

(The image is taken from the SenseMaker® Collector app on my iPhone)

When at the start of a SenseMaker® project, it looks like an unnecessary complication – but when analysing, it becomes really important. For instance:

Sensemaker triad: justice

From a cultural project we ran in North Africa last year, we can see roughly equal numbers of micro-narratives that feature each of the three dominant forms of justice – Reconciliation, Revenge and Deterrence.  It’s difficult to come to any conclusion from this.

With emotional intensity added, however, we get:

Sensemaker triad: justice with emtional intensity

Now we can see that while all three may be equally common, Reconciliation is mostly positive – a good sign.  Revenge is largely negative – again a good sign.  More worryingly, Deterrence is also largely negative – not a good sign, as it implies that preventing people from doing bad or stupid things is not regarded as a good thing to do.

Similar elements crop up with customers’ attitudes to different elements of a product or service – it’s not enough to know which elements dominate, but essential to see whether they are positive or negative.

For SenseMaker® Explorer users, I use my emotional intensity question and drop it into the Legend box – then right-click on each answer to change the colour so that I have an emotional spectrum from dark green (very positive) to dark red (very negative).  (Be aware that if you have a largely male audience, you may need to change from green to blue for positive, as red-green colour blindness will negate your careful presentation!)

Some colleagues prefer instead to a question with a list of feelings – angry, proud, sad, hopeful, etc – but my experience is that

  1. it’s less easy to create a spectrum
  2. if people can choose multiple feelings, then any micro-narrative that has two answers is automatically grey
  3. it is entirely possible to have a positive story that makes one angry – the assumption that angry stories are always negative is a poor one

2 thoughts on “Using SenseMaker® – emotional intensity”

  1. I’m not sure what this means, as emotional intensify is only a part of a reaction. Begs a question like …. what is your level of interest (in the story)?
    From weak to strong and don’t care.
    Don’t have any data to back this up.

  2. Thanks for that Tony.
    You’re right – it’s only part of the reaction and hence it’s only one question about the story – the whole signification framework is how we look in more detail.
    Your suggestion of level of interest is another – typically I’ll get into that element obliquely via questions like “How long will you remember this story” or “Who should hear this story?”.

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