“Sensemaking”

Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm‘ is an incisive book written by Christian Madsbjerg. I stumbled across this book during a spun-out wait at a bookstore near an airport boarding gate. The power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm – Well, that caption was intellectually pretty much beefy enough for me to be riveted by the overall theme of it. I had thought about this status quo before, wherein we’re living a world where “technology dripped” people and organizational machinery slowly chip away the humanities aspects of even trivial matters. Industries and businesses heavily tend to rely on extracted data and algorithms without contemplating on the cultural nuances and the socio cultural engagement with their clients that often used to lay the foundations of such connections. While we thrive in a world of increased automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the importance of profound human connections and the liberal arts aspect of such engagements are often relegated to a frivolous domain. The book is straightly addressed to a worldwide audience and this can be perceived by anyone at any corner of the world. Businesses or individuals trying to develop a global engagement at a particular place with any product or service have to spend time understanding the culture of the people there to understand their preferences and the factors influencing their decision making. The author recommends to use liberal arts,  philosophy and cultural understanding as tools in developing that understanding and not to dominantly rely on clusters of data without their contextual underpinnings. We find that the author narrates through different thinking approaches like “deductive” (top down reasoning) and “inductive” (Bottom down reasoning).  The book walks us through some of the consultancy experiences that the author had with automobile companies such as “Ford“, wherein for example, a deeper understanding of the cultural preferences and nuances of customers helped them to resurrect their once failing Lincoln brand. This is one example. The author provides several compelling examples from different industries and contexts to propound his case. It’s a good insightful read if you’re interested in this sort of a theme. I’m adding some quotes from the book, which I felt was interesting.

“Over time, as management has become increasingly professionalized, you can sense a kind of nihilism or loss of meaning in the executive layers. This nihilism is strongest in large corporate cultures where management is seen as a profession in and of itself, with no strong connection to what the company actually makes or does.”…

“Without this texture of experience, the data shoved before these executives’ eyes loses any truth. Context and color are absent; all that remains are abstract representations of the world rather than the world itself.”

Quoted from “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm” by Christian Madsbjerg.