Monday, January 22, 2007

Sensemaking 1

Sensemaking's influence on usability ...

"Here’s an important question for all of us: How do you make sense of something that’s big and complicated? Say… something like why your users aren’t passionate about your product?

For the past several years I’ve been thinking a great deal about sensemaking—that is, the processes people go through when trying to “make sense” of a body of knowledge.

Think about it—sensemaking is what you do when you’re trying to organize your taxes, or when you want to understand what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s what you do to figure out why your software just doesn’t seem to have the right zing for the customers. And it’s what you do when trying to wrap your mind around that great new idea for a startup. It’s figuring out how and why things make sense… or don’t.

What’s always struck me about sensemaking behavior is this: People just don’t seem to be all that good at it. They take notes on the topic, then never go over them, or lose them in the shuffle of life. People seem to rarely understand that sensemaking is a skill like language. You can be good or bad at it, and the level of skill makes a big difference.

So I’ve made this a central part of my research career: WHAT do people do when they’re trying to make sense of the world? And, just as importantly, WHY are people so bad at it? A great deal of my career (at PARC, Apple, IBM and now at Google) has been a long study of these sensemaking behaviors.

Let’s be more precise: If you’re trying to understand a fairly hefty topic… what is it that you do? How do you collect information, organize it and figure out what’s important (and what’s not)?

I know what I do (and I’ll tell you below)… but pause and think about this for a second. What do you do?

(I’ll wait.)

Okay. What’s the answer? When I ask people this question, I get two really interesting responses."    (Continued via Creating Passionate Users)    [Usability Resources]


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