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Sense-making

OK, it’s sort of two words but I’m making that hyphen do some work here.

Its definition amuses me because it shines a light on the absurdity of the human condition: “the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalize what people are doing”.

Sense-making has a really interesting counterpoint to offer to decision-making. It focuses on the meaning attributed to events and situations. 

To develop meaning is a social, narrative activity, where stories are overlaid on past events. The plausibility is more important than the accuracy, and the meaning and importance of information and events is shaped and reshaped dynamically over time. 

Sense-making becomes very important in times of uncertainty. It helps people to feel that they understand and can control what is happening to them. It shapes how they behave and relate to one another. 

There is a reason that narcissists focus so heavily on “controlling the narrative”. It’s the basis for avoiding blame and shame, and the means to gaslight others. 

The wise leader understands that sense-making happens whether they want it to or not, and that making space for constructive retrospection is critical in uncertain times. 

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