Sunday, November 18, 2007

The rest of that post

I inadvertently left off some of the last post. Here's the rest. It talks about how the example in that post can be usefully framed using some of the narrative and improvisation concepts mentioned here.

In the example, we see a practitioner confronted with a breach in the expected chain of events, resulting in a sensemaking instance. This was caused by an escalating series of challenges and interruptions among the participants that caused the mapper to lose her place. There was a pre-existing set of narratives that frame the event, supplying expected causality, reasons for people to be at the event, expected roles, and assumed meanings. In the example, some of the relevant narrative aspects include the ostensible purpose of the workshop, the personal reasons each participant had for attending (e.g., what they hoped to gain from it), the expected trajectory of the facilitated session itself, and the mapper’s own expectation that she would be able to capture and represent the discussion as it unfolded. When the session started to unravel, this constituted a breach for which there was no ready-made, unproblematic response.

We further see improvised actions that draw on practitioner (as well as participant) repertoires. Up to the point of the breach, the mapper had followed a straightforward, pre-planned dialogue mapping approach in her work on the knowledge map. When things went wrong, this had to be (temporarily) abandoned. With the help of several of the participants, the mapper was able recast the situation, which helped her launch a rapid series of actions on the map to bring it back to a point where forward progress, and the dialogue mapping technique, could resume.

This is only a brief example from one case study; more to come in future posts.

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