The Sensemaking-for-Clients Spectrum, Part I

Several weeks ago, as Laurie prepared for the Cognitive Edge workshop that she and Zhen Goh taught in Houston on September 8-9, Analysis to Action with SenseMaker®, we talked about a question of pedagogy, of “pitch”: How do you teach material when the level of experience and expertise of the potential attendees is diverse? More importantly, how do you help them identify the place on this sensemaking-for-clients spectrum at which they wish to work?…

Consultant ←→ Practitioner ←→ Mentor/Analyst

It’s less important to know exactly what Laurie means by each of these labels (see below) than to recognize that “experience and expertise” in this context are a matter of personal choice, of the who and how of client and data engagement.

This point was made forcefully by Iwan Jenkins in an August 22 post, Avoid shaved legs and let your customers love you. It is a tale of intense frustration over his difficulty in uploading podcasts to an iTunes server, compounded by the inability of Apple Support to offer “help” at a level appropriate to his chosen facility:

In my twelfth email I was commanded to change 3 lines of html code at the front end of my RSS feed. After this, my podcast would be accepted.

If I could insert 3 seconds of stunned silence here I would.

I am not a techie….

I am trying to do interesting work which makes a difference in people[‘]s lives, and Apple’s products promise to help me.

But they are making it difficult—and this makes it hard for me to love them.

I don’t code. I don’t want to code. I don’t want to waste time learning to how to backslash br hyphen colon br double back slash.

I just want to upload my podcast.

In case you don’t know Iwan, he has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, so learning HTML would not be an intellectual challenge. Nor does his failure to do so indicate akrasia or some other character flaw from a Greek tragedy. Rather, as he says, he doesn’t code because “I don’t want to code.” So, in the spectrum above, he chose the center as the best place to serve his clients. (He also chose to shave his legs as the most expedient way to get the podcast uploaded, but you’ll have to read the rest of his post for the details.)

In a follow-up post, Laurie will discuss what she means by the three labels. She will also include an instrument that she and Zhen used in the Houston workshop. They asked participants to amplify the spectrum by indicating specific skills and perspectives that they would associate with the respective labels, based on their own self-characterization. In the interim, here is a graphical portrayal that shows several “calibration points,” users of SenseMaker that we know, labelled by single letters (but otherwise not identified here).


Roughly speaking, someone nearer the horizontal axis — Client-centric — would choose to spend more time working directly with clients in design, collection, and textual interpretation; someone nearer the vertical axis — Tool-centric — would spend a larger proportion of time on analysis, visualization, and numerical interpretation. In many cases, the optimal result would come from a pairing of people in distinct areas of the arcuate band. In any case, the unstated assumption is that all of the people understand the principles of SenseMaker, its application, and the importance of blending qualitative and quantitative data to provide maximum value to their clients.