Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sensemaking example

One of the sessions at the Ames workshop was particularly problematic for the practitioners. In an oft-seen pattern, the discussion veered away from focusing on the map almost from the very beginning of the session. In the debrief afterwards, one of the facilitators said the following (note: not a native English speaker):

“One of the problem I always have, I don’t know how to face, is how do, I mean when you [start] a new topic, normally, there are a lot of people, and they are bing, bing, there is an explosion of idea and people they want to say something, maybe at the beginning they hold, and then when you say that’s your time, it’s [boom] and they start not being [cooperative]. . . . So my main problem is, how, I mean I don’t know how to stop them ... they always have very good ideas, so I don’t want to stop and break the normal flow of the discourse. But at the same time I’d like to find a way to pull them back … so it’s a main problem... you know, I don’t want to block them but at the same time I’d like to find a way to bring them back to the theme.”

This is a good example of the kind of disruption that, in the hands of a more experienced or skilled practitioner, can trigger sensemaking and actions toward a successful resolution. As in this case, practitioners with less experience or skill in managing a group conversation struggle to come up with effective interventions, and often give up trying.