Sensing, SenseMaking and ChangeMaking
Just as “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, making information accessible does not necessarily mean the audience will internalize it, process it and use it to challenge and change their understanding and beliefs.
I have sat in many presentations where the speakers use sleek PowerPoint slides to inform critical decisions.
Very rarely have I found a power point presentation stick in my memory like an insight or an epiphany I have gained from a deep conversation in a memorable situation.
Professionals spend hours putting together beautiful presentations hoping that a spell bound audience will remember the message for as long as they need to reflect, process and act on it.
I have also observed that my corporate clients have collect hordes of PowerPint presentations in their archives; very rarely does the content from these presentations stick in collective memory or have a lasting impact on their instincts.
On the other hand, I wonder why we tend to vividly remember the words, the sounds and sensations of the deep conversations we have had in the past in meaningful moments.
We also remember the lyrics, tunes and the feelings evoked in us by the poems or songs we have heard in our childhood and use that memory to reflect on, interpret and understand complexities and challenges of life.
Isolation during the pandemic has made me realize that
- Everyday people surround themselves with artifacts and images for the basic purpose of meaning making
- Sense making is a step towards meaning making
- Sense making is a multi-sensory experience
- It is also an experience that calls for a combination of reflection and dialogue.
- immersion in a sensory experience is essential to creating a long term memory.
- It takes time for people to internalize, interpret and understand sensory information stored in memory.
- A combination of dialogue and moments of reflection can help create comfort for letting new information affect our beliefs.
- Affecting beliefs in an organization and preparing it for an emerging future is an iterative process. In this process it is important to use multiple methods to create shared sensory memories, facilitating synthesis through dialogue and creating a space for quiet contemplation.
Edward Tufty, one of the greatest authorities on information visualization, has trained communication designers in visual representation of complex Information. Tufty suggests,
“I have stared long enough at the glowing flat rectangles of computer screens. Let us give more time for doing things in the real world…plant a plant, walk the dogs, read a real book, go to the opera.”
Experiential learning will facilitate sense making and create conditions for the stakeholder to embrace change.