SenseMaker is pioneering software for conducting narrative research. It allows you to gather and analyse responses from a large target audience quickly, then move directly into decision-making and action.
The profile of narrative research has grown steadily in recent years, as we recognise its potential. Telling stories is the most basic and ancient way in which people understand the world. It’s how we:
- set intentions and boundaries
- communicate complex messages and help each other make better decisions, and
- become part of a group and share knowledge.
Stories, therefore, are a rich source of data for research. By contrast, many traditional research techniques, such as polls and surveys, restrict responses too much and are subject to biases. (There are, however, instances where combining approaches may be appropriate.)
What does SenseMaker do?
In a SenseMaker project we prompt people to share an experience that is relevant to the topic of enquiry and get them to add meaningful data. We collect the stories and data and look at the patterns emerging. SenseMaker prioritises the voice of the storyteller so there’s far less risk of decision-maker’s confirmation bias.
Objective data emerges from the subjective material, giving you a strong basis for decision-making.
SenseMaker can help you to:
- gather the perspectives of multiple respondents
- find innovative responses to intractable problems
- ensure you’ve identified the real issues before committing resources
- understand the possibilities for change in a complex system
- build a more coherent community or team
- detect emerging trends early, or
- highlight the sensitive issues that no-one talks about.
Where can SenseMaker be applied?
SenseMaker is especially useful when you need to know how people on the ground see their situation, what obstacles and opportunities exist — and what to try next. Narrate Consulting has conducted narrative research projects across the private, public and NGO sectors in multiple countries and languages. Among other things, we’ve helped organisations to understand their customer’s voice, improve employee experience and follow patient journeys. Clients often find SenseMaker valuable to:
- align inter-disciplinary teams
- assess initial socio-cultural conditions
- address critiques of leadership or organisational culture
- set new organisational directions
- conduct product planning and marketing
- improve customer or brand experience
- survey the perceptions of external stakeholders
- develop capacity to share knowledge from earlier initiatives and projects, or
- monitor and evaluate developmental programmes.
SenseMaker, complexity and Cynefin
SenseMaker is often mentioned in the same breath as the Cynefin™ framework (developed by Dave Snowden) for managing complex problems. According to this framework, the type of situation you’re in (obvious, complicated, complex or chaotic) determines the sort of solutions most likely to be effective. Understanding your context is crucial to solving complex issues in particular, and SenseMaker can help you build this contextual knowledge.