A diversity of perspectives for an authentic sense of reality in healthcare

October 2, 2013


It’s only working with a diversity of many perspectives can we get objectively closer to a more authentic sense of reality.  This is a fundamental key value proposition of SenseMaker® and our work across a broad range of application areas.  It’s precisely why SenseMaker® delivers value concurrently into areas such as market research, security, organisational culture, employee engagement, customer insights, safety and monitoring & evaluation.  Now sometimes a more authentic sense of reality can be shocking and disturbing.  The disturbing, shocking, and unexpected patterns of meaning are precisely the moments when sense-making is expanded and SenseMaker® delivers on its purpose inherent in its name.

One of the sample reports we offer prospective SenseMaker® customers is from a pilot project we completed on critical incidents in healthcare.  This pilot was seeking to understand influences on incident reporting and the nature of barriers and/or attractors within these influences. The healthcare organisation gave us permission to share an edited abridged version of the report.  If anyone is interested please email me at michael (dot) cheveldave (at) cognitive-edge.com.

The concept we were putting to practice was applying SenseMaker® to more authentically tap into the many observers in the healthcare system that experience, observe, and hear about critical incidents.  At any point in time we are all immersed in a sea of percolating, propagating, fading, and amplifying stories.  Critical incidents are one of many triggers that stimulate many perspectives, rumors, and judgements from a wide range of individuals.  Such a dynamic and evolving collection of stories, often messily coherent, impact both the people delivering healthcare services as well as those receiving such services.  In the case of patients on the receiving end, emotions such as fear, concern, anxiety amongst others can be strongly evoked by reinforcing rumors, myths, and factional stories (“factional” = a mix of fact and fiction which is what most stories “in the wild” are).  In the case of health care professionals stories and reflections on such stories impact our ability to scan and to make effective sense of our immediate surroundings.  In both cases the emergence of reinforced stories influences our biases which in turn influence our actions and behaviours.  It is this dual-constraint that can be leveraged as both a strength and weakness in human cognition and judgement.

An organisations cognitive edge can only be effectively exploited if methods to engage the collective cognition of its employees, stakeholders, and customers are used.  SenseMaker® is evolving quickly in development and practice by clients across many sectors and geographies.  Healthcare transformation is both complicated and complex and can definitely benefit with more effective exploitation of distributed cognition and more authentic sense-making.


The opening image shows a mapping of a sample of stories from the referenced critical incidents project on one of the triad questions used in the project (US Pat. 8,031,201).

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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