Sensemaking in Organizations (Anglais) Broché – 20 juillet 1995
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Sensemaking is tested to the extreme when people encounter an event whose occurrence is so implausible that they hesitate to report it for fear they will not be believed. Lire la première page
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Sensemaking is a process that applies to both individuals and groups who are faced with new information that is inconsistent with their prior beliefs. In some cases, it can be the lack of expected information that triggers the Sensemaking process. Weick's work is based in part on Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance, which holds that people are uncomfortable with inconsistent beliefs and are driven resolve the dissonance it creates.
Consequently, Sensemaking posits that people will resolve their cognitive dissonance through plausible (but not necessarily accurate) narratives, which then become entrenched over time and resistant to change. This explains how, for example, religious groups can have such stringent beliefs, how political parties can be confident in their diametrically opposed positions, how organizations can develop very different cultures, and how individuals can develop very different interpretations for the same events.
Underlying assumptions in Sensemaking:
1) The world is complex and ambiguous
2) Available information is massive and contradictory
3) Individuals have limited ability to process information
4) Individuals are uncomfortable with unresolved ambiguity or contradictory information (cognitive dissonance)
5) Most actions, beliefs, and cognitions are socially influenced
The Sensemaking process:
1) Sensemaking starts with an event or act (or sometimes the lack of an expected event).
2) Individuals construct meaning for the event or act (interpret it) by selecting only certain cues from their past experience based on their existing beliefs and biases. Disconfirming cues are often not observed at all, deemphasized, or ignored.
3) Commitment forms around the interpretation to bind the interpretation to future action. When publicly communicated, commitment is especially strong.
4) Individuals are motivated to justify their commitments, so they initiate future actions and continually refine their interpretation of the original event so that their commitment to a course of action is deemed appropriate.
5) These new actions produce "evidence" that validates the interpretation and are used to increase decision confidence.
6) Over time, the ambiguous nature of the original event or act is forgotten and other possible "right answers" are never developed. More importantly, the commitment that was made to a specific decision or course of action increasingly becomes seen as the only rational, logical, and appropriate outcome.
For a more business-friendly, but still challenging book, which includes numerous examples, please consider Weick's "Making Sense of the Organization".Making Sense of the Organization (KeyWorks in Cultural Studies)
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It offers new views on how organisations operate, and how they generate meaning. It points out that reality is not something outside the organisation, but something that is constructed by people within the organisation - an empowering insight. Weick also extensively discusses where and how this 'making of sense' happens.
But the book fails largely in linking this theory to practice. After making sense of 'Sensemaking', (which requires some mental acrobatics!), I still don't know how a leader can influence the sensemaking process to the benefit of the organisation. I'm still left with the basic question: So what?
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