about sensemaker®

SenseMaker® is key to our practice. The first and original distributed ethnographic approach to sense-making, SenseMaker® allows for large-scale capture of the ‘subject’ into a quantitative framework where the ‘subject’ becomes their own ethnographer.  SenseMaker® combines the scale of numbers with the explanatory power of narrative.

By enabling self-signification – allowing respondents to give meaning to their own experience –  SenseMaker® provides an approach that avoids the epistemic injustice of third-party or algorithmic interpretation. Sophisticated visualisations of patterns, ideas, outliers, tendencies, threats, or opportunities are intuitively readable to anyone without the need for a background in statistics. No barriers. No pre-requisite expertise required. Just curiosity.

SenseMaker® allows the powerful combination of vast amounts of data, with the rich context of narrative, based on the anecdotes of real people going about their real lives. Very importantly, SenseMaker® places the voices and interpretations of people at the centre, instead of privileging those in power.


SenseMaker® gives researchers, policy-makers and decision-makers rich, insightful data, directly from the heads, hearts and personal experiences of the people that matter.  Organisations from diverse sectors use SenseMaker® to gain unique insights into their business, markets, employees, and broader socio-economic contexts. SenseMaker® projects and engagements have been successfully deployed in:

  • Commercial companies of all shapes and sizes
  • Governments and public institutions
  • Safety, policing, military, and education
  • Academic research studies across various fields
  • NPOs and Initiatives for public good
  • Moreover, SenseMaker® is for organisations that recognise the uncertainty and complexity of the world we live in and realise that a single-minded obsession with metrics, spreadsheets and popularity is detrimental to a future that depends on human values, diversity and different viewpoints.


Use SenseMaker® to simultaneously gather the “what” and the “why” in high volumes. SenseMaker® illuminates meaning, uncovers patterns, identifies unarticulated needs and taps into the power of collective human wisdom to make sense of complex, ambiguous and rapidly changing environments.

SenseMaker® excels at providing decision-making support and enabling human sensor networks to:

  • Guide Organisational Strategy
  • Guide Policy-Making
  • Direct Market and Product Development
  • Manage Human Resources
  • Identify Skills Gaps
  • Prioritise Internal Communication?
  • Influence Marketing and Sales Strategies
  • Inform Risk Management
  • Coordinate Health and Safety Policies
  • Enable Agile Team Learning
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and support

...and much, much more. We realise every day that we’ve only scratched the surface of where SenseMaker® can assist to liberate human potential.

Use Cases





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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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Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
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