SenseMaker FAQ

Do you have a query about SenseMaker and our services? Here are some frequently asked questions.

1. How is SenseMaker different from a standard survey?

In several ways:

•  In standard surveys respondents offer their opinions or answer based on their beliefs about their values. This is risky; what people believe drives them is often quite different from what actually drives them. By contrast, SenseMaker respondents describe a real experience. For example, a well-known coffee company found that their survey data differed radically from their sales data: customers said they liked espressos, but in reality ordered flat whites. Collecting stories about peoples’ actual experiences with a product, organisation, workplace or community yields far more reliable data.

•  In surveys people will often say what they believe their interviewer wants to hear (‘social desirability bias’). SenseMaker questionnaires eliminate this risk by beginning with a prompt or inquiry that is open-ended. Additionally, whereas surveys test existing theories, SenseMaker provides a system-wide perspective and may radically shift understanding of a problem.

•  Lastly, ‘messy’ qualitative data from surveys must be categorised to make it easier to filter and examine. Researchers thus interpret the meaning of the responses themselves, and invariably introduce unintentional biases. With SenseMaker, respondents perform the initial interpretation task themselves. Because they clarify the meaning of their own stories, the resulting data is more credible. In addition, we first examine patterns emerging from the SenseMaker data, only then do we read any stories.

2. Do you translate the narratives if they’re in another language?

SenseMaker software can collect stories in any language. We translate the questions in the framework and test them to ensure that respondents will understand them. We don’t, however, need to translate all of the stories gathered. The respondent interprets (‘self-signifies’) the meaning of his or her story by tagging it, which generates metadata for analysis. We look at the patterns emerging from the metadata, then decide which, if any, narratives to translate and explore further.

3. Can Narrate oversee just one aspect of a project, such as framework design or advanced analysis?

Yes, we can oversee an entire project, or just one component of it, such as:

•  developing a framework of questions

•  reviewing frameworks

•  advising on collection design

•  building a bespoke SenseMaker website

•  checking data quality

•  providing advanced interpretation and analysis of data, or

•  running insight workshops.

4. Can you train me to build and run my own SenseMaker project?

Yes. We provide training and ongoing support for organisations that may want this. Options include:

•  a two-day training workshop with follow-up and support

•  mentoring at regular points throughout your first project, or

•  ongoing coaching.

5. Do you mentor in-house project managers?

Yes. We have worked with Silicon Valley multinationals, UN agencies and many other organisations around the world to provide coaching and mentoring for in-house staff conducting SenseMaker projects.

6. How is the SenseMaker data stored and can it easily be used for communication?

The data is fully encrypted and stored on a secure server. Clients access that data using various tools. You can use the narratives themselves for marketing purposes, driving innovation or transformation, setting strategic direction, or advocacy purposes.

7. What about using standard SenseMaker question frameworks?

There can be value in using standardised frameworks, particularly as an easy entry point to SenseMaker. However, our experience is that every company responds differently to issues and clients benefit more by customising frameworks to their specific issues and context. This provides richer data, more relevant to stakeholders and CEOs.

8. What does a SenseMaker project cost?

We design and cost according to the scope of the project. Contact us for a no-commitment conversation.

9. How many responses do you need for narrative research?

To get useful information we need a minimum sample of about 100 stories. If the target group consists of fewer than 100 members, we collect multiple stories from each person to achieve a workable sample. If required, we may collect as many as 5,000 narratives or more.

10. How do you collect the stories/narratives?

There are several options. Stories can be collected in any browser. Text, audio and image capture can also be done offline via the app (available for both Android and IOS). Additionally, we have experience of using other offline techniques to gather the data.

11. How do you choose collectors?

Whether we’re recruiting in-house staff or selecting and training external researchers, we look for collectors who are excellent listeners and skilled at building rapport. They must be able to keep opinions and questions to themselves when in research mode, and willing to let the tool do the work of understanding, rather than interrogate the data. It is particularly important that they have a deep understanding of the local culture or the organisation within which they will be working. This is especially the case when dealing vulnerable groups.

Wondering how SenseMaker can make a difference in your organisation?

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