Sensemaking Book Summary - Sensemaking Book explained in key points
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Sensemaking summary

Christian Madsbjerg

What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm

4.1 (27 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Sensemaking by Christian Madsbjerg is a thought-provoking book that challenges the way we think about data and technology in business. It argues for the importance of human intelligence and intuition in decision-making, using examples from successful global companies.

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    Sensemaking is a form of cultural engagement made up of five principles.

    Compared to the mechanical efficiency of computers, it’s clear our human thought processes are flawed. Yet we do have one distinct advantage over machines: cultural knowledge.

    This cultural knowledge can be most powerfully harnessed in a method called sensemaking. Sensemaking is the process by which we gain wisdom through examining cultural knowledge. It’s a kind of cultural engagement closely associated with the humanities.

    For example, it might seem normal today to look to numbers for meaning, but sensemaking allows us to go further than sales figures, turnover rates and the like. It gives us a 360-degree perspective on the world.

    There are five basic elements to sensemaking.

    Firstly, sensemaking understands that humans shouldn’t just be defined by their individual personalities. People are also characterized by their cultural context.

    Secondly, look for thick data. Thick data establishes what is significant in a given culture. For instance, the fact that 86 percent of US households might drink more than six quarts of milk per week is thin data. Thick data would help us understand what milk means to them and why they drink it.

    Thirdly, consider that human behavior is best understood as existing in social contexts, rather than abstractly. Take love, for instance. It’s so much more than a chemical reaction in the brain that can be studied in a lab. To understand it fully we’d have to look at how love has been experienced in, say, classical India or the West today.

    Fourthly, you shouldn’t look just to strict logical processes. Insights can be gained through immersion, intuition and hypothesizing.

    The final precept reminds us that we shouldn’t get our bearings from data alone. If we attune ourselves to the world – looking to the stars, not GPS – we can also reach significant insights.

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    What is Sensemaking about?

    In a world where data, numbers and statistics are treated like holy relics, Sensemaking (2017) powerfully advocates a return to humanities-based thinking. These blinks explain the process and principles of sensemaking, a way to make sense of the world through the interpretation of human culture. Being able to look beyond the immediate focus and understand the context surrounding the issues at hand is a critical tool for anyone looking to develop great, one-of-a-kind ideas.

    Sensemaking Review

    Sensemaking (2017) by Christian Madsbjerg explores the importance of human intuition and empathy in a world that often relies too heavily on data and algorithms. Here are three reasons why this book stands out:

    • By emphasizing the role of context and interpretation, the author challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh perspective on problem-solving.
    • Through captivating case studies and anecdotes, Madsbjerg seamlessly blends philosophy, anthropology, and business to create a thought-provoking and interdisciplinary read.
    • The book's emphasis on the role of empathy and understanding in business and society makes it a relevant and compelling read for anyone interested in human behavior and decision-making.

    Who should read Sensemaking?

    • Devotees of the human sciences, philosophers, linguists and historians
    • Students of STEM looking to expand their potential
    • Business leaders and entrepreneurs

    About the Author

    Christian Madsbjerg is the founder of the strategy consultants ReD Associate, which embraces anthropology, sociology, art history and philosophy. Madsbjerg himself studied philosophy and political science in Copenhagen and London.

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    Sensemaking FAQs 

    What is the main message of Sensemaking?

    Sensemaking teaches us to embrace ambiguity and use human understanding to make sense of complex problems.

    How long does it take to read Sensemaking?

    The reading time for Sensemaking varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Sensemaking a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Sensemaking is a valuable read that challenges conventional thinking and offers new ways to approach problem-solving.

    Who is the author of Sensemaking?

    Christian Madsbjerg is the author of Sensemaking.

    What to read after Sensemaking?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Sensemaking, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Art of Statistics by David Spiegelhalter
    • Numbers Rule Your World by Kaiser Fung
    • Irresistible by Adam Alter
    • The Data Detective by Tim Harford
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
    • Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
    • The Book of Why by Judea Pearl and Dana MacKenzie
    • Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch
    • Gut Check by Steven R. Gundry