Chapter 3

Sense Making and Strategic Insight

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

—Albert Einstein

In this chapter, we:
  • examine the role of sense making in the greater context of the strategic thinking process, explore some of the philosophical underpinnings of sense making and show how and why these matter;
  • explore sense making from both the spatial and process perspectives:
    • in the spatial perspective we examine a framework for sense making that relates analysis, intuition and interpretation to the derivation of insight,
    • from a process perspective we examine how sense making occurs in complex organization contexts, and how it relates to learning, interpretation and the ascription of meaning in complex contexts;
  • close with a reflection on the formation of insight – the outcome of the sense making process.

Organizations and their competitive environments resemble a perplexing terrain. Our perceptions regarding that terrain are based on numerous inputs of information. Some of this information might be incomplete and unclear; some information might be outright misleading. That this is so has long been recognized in military contexts. The great Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz pointed out in his treatise On War that a “great part of the information obtained in war is contradictory, a greater part is false, and by far the greater part is of a doubtful character”.1 Some of the contradiction no doubt stems from the purely ambiguous circumstances ...

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