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Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm

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Based on his work at some of the world's largest companies, including Ford, Adidas, and Chanel, Christian Madsbjerg's Sensemaking is a provocative stand against the tyranny of big data and scientism, and an urgent, overdue defense of human intelligence. Humans have become subservient to algorithms. Every day brings a new Moneyball fix--a math whiz who will crack open an in Based on his work at some of the world's largest companies, including Ford, Adidas, and Chanel, Christian Madsbjerg's Sensemaking is a provocative stand against the tyranny of big data and scientism, and an urgent, overdue defense of human intelligence. Humans have become subservient to algorithms. Every day brings a new Moneyball fix--a math whiz who will crack open an industry with clean fact-based analysis rather than human intuition and experience. As a result, we have stopped thinking. Machines do it for us. Christian Madsbjerg argues that our fixation with data often masks stunning deficiencies, and the risks for humankind are enormous. Blind devotion to number crunching imperils our businesses, our educations, our governments, and our life savings. Too many companies have lost touch with the humanity of their customers, while marginalizing workers with liberal arts-based skills. Contrary to popular thinking, Madsbjerg shows how many of today's biggest success stories stem not from "quant" thinking but from deep, nuanced engagement with culture, language, and history. He calls his method sensemaking. In this landmark book, Madsbjerg lays out five principles for how business leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals can use it to solve their thorniest problems. He profiles companies using sensemaking to connect with new customers, and takes readers inside the work process of sensemaking "connoisseurs" like investor George Soros, architect Bjarke Ingels, and others. Both practical and philosophical, Sensemaking is a powerful rejoinder to corporate groupthink and an indispensable resource for leaders and innovators who want to stand out from the pack.


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Based on his work at some of the world's largest companies, including Ford, Adidas, and Chanel, Christian Madsbjerg's Sensemaking is a provocative stand against the tyranny of big data and scientism, and an urgent, overdue defense of human intelligence. Humans have become subservient to algorithms. Every day brings a new Moneyball fix--a math whiz who will crack open an in Based on his work at some of the world's largest companies, including Ford, Adidas, and Chanel, Christian Madsbjerg's Sensemaking is a provocative stand against the tyranny of big data and scientism, and an urgent, overdue defense of human intelligence. Humans have become subservient to algorithms. Every day brings a new Moneyball fix--a math whiz who will crack open an industry with clean fact-based analysis rather than human intuition and experience. As a result, we have stopped thinking. Machines do it for us. Christian Madsbjerg argues that our fixation with data often masks stunning deficiencies, and the risks for humankind are enormous. Blind devotion to number crunching imperils our businesses, our educations, our governments, and our life savings. Too many companies have lost touch with the humanity of their customers, while marginalizing workers with liberal arts-based skills. Contrary to popular thinking, Madsbjerg shows how many of today's biggest success stories stem not from "quant" thinking but from deep, nuanced engagement with culture, language, and history. He calls his method sensemaking. In this landmark book, Madsbjerg lays out five principles for how business leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals can use it to solve their thorniest problems. He profiles companies using sensemaking to connect with new customers, and takes readers inside the work process of sensemaking "connoisseurs" like investor George Soros, architect Bjarke Ingels, and others. Both practical and philosophical, Sensemaking is a powerful rejoinder to corporate groupthink and an indispensable resource for leaders and innovators who want to stand out from the pack.

30 review for Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm

  1. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek

    The book's subject deeply interested me - claiming a place for Humanities in the midst of an increasingly data driven and technology led world. However, the book did not live up to its promise. It follows the typical cookie cutter model of writing - popular for many years with American publishers - there is a one line premise to your book, which you elaborate to some 200 odd pages by citing stories and examples to support your case, while also refuting what you are writing against. Overall the b The book's subject deeply interested me - claiming a place for Humanities in the midst of an increasingly data driven and technology led world. However, the book did not live up to its promise. It follows the typical cookie cutter model of writing - popular for many years with American publishers - there is a one line premise to your book, which you elaborate to some 200 odd pages by citing stories and examples to support your case, while also refuting what you are writing against. Overall the book takes an overly lopsided view of technology and fails to offer a balanced view of how to bring humanities and technology together. Also, it often reads like marketing material for author's private consulting agency. The book cites success examples of the very same people who also wrote recommendations for its back flap. The one line summation of the book would be as follows: Since big data is only about correlation (versus causation), in order to understand (and thereby influence) causation one needs to look beyond data, which requires understanding context, having empathy, and cultivating a deeper insight into human and cultural nuances, all of which benefit from study of humanities versus limiting oneself to scientific subjects only. The above is a fair point and a valid argument. However, the book could have been much more readable and useful had it tried to balance out the two views versus trying to tilt the scales excessively away from technology. I found the book's closing line to be its best part: ""What are people for? Algorithms can do many things, but they will never actually give a damn. People are for caring."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laurent Franckx

    What a disappointment. I had started reading the book with the expectation that it would be a serious discussion of a really deep problem: how important is context in our age of big data? Indeed, one of the most controversial promises of big data is that it claims to be able to make accurate predictions without knowledge of the context - see for instance https://www.wired.com/2008/06/pb-theory/ On the other hand, some critics claim that without accurate information on the context, big data makes t What a disappointment. I had started reading the book with the expectation that it would be a serious discussion of a really deep problem: how important is context in our age of big data? Indeed, one of the most controversial promises of big data is that it claims to be able to make accurate predictions without knowledge of the context - see for instance https://www.wired.com/2008/06/pb-theory/ On the other hand, some critics claim that without accurate information on the context, big data makes trivial mistakes that a ten year old human wouldn't. Fields where both extreme claims are well illustrated are of course machine translation and on-line search. Sometimes, Google search and translate give us the feeling that they can almost read our minds, up to the point where this eerie. In other cases, the results are laughable and the mistakes trivial. Because big data algorithms are strictly based on observed behaviour, they also tend to confirm blindly existing biases, as has for instance been argued by Cathy O'Neil in a book that is less than perfect but at least based on a real understanding of the subject - see https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... So, I was very curious to hear what someone with a background in philosophy and political science has to say about the subject. In the case of this book, not a lot, I am afraid. Instead of providing an in-depth analysis of the human's mind capacity to understand context where neural network or other algorithms fail, this book is a barely concealed advertisement for the author's consulting activities. If you allow me to make a caricature, the core of his message is that Heidegger provides a better guide to understanding human nature than quantitative analysis (given Heidegger's behaviour during Nazism, I am sure he understands a thing or two about opportunism and cowardice). The problem is that, once you get beyond the name- and terminology-dropping, the message is simply that understanding the context of data is important. Well, I have no problem with that. I am a quantitative social scientist myself, and I can assure you that the field is very aware of the dangers of blindly applying insights gained in one context to another. And, contrary to what Madsjberg suggests, issues of underlying values, lifestyles and social influences are a key topic in quantitative social analysis - if you're not cot convinced, just Google (yeah, right) search terms such as "latent variable" and "latent classes". At the end of the day, this book is essentially another pretentious criticism of somebody else's field by an author who has never bothered to really understand what the people in the criticised field actually do. There is no serious attempt anywhere in the book to ponder the pros and the cons of an argument. I will give just one concrete example. In one of the final chapters, Madsjberg discusses oenology, and makes bold claims about the superior judgements of people who have their boots in the (vineyard) ground compared to quantitative analysts. As usual, Madsjberg does not prove his point: he just repeats it over and over again, and expects this will be enough to convince the reader. The point is that, if Madsjberg would ever have bothered to look up information that didn't confirm his prejudices, he would have come across the work of Orley Ashenfelter, whose purely quantitative analysis of wine has systematically outperformed the claims of the field experts. Ouch. Now, let's be clear. I do not claim, and will never claim, that context-free quantitative analysis is always superior to the judgement of experts. I am just debunking Madsjberg confidence in the superiority of "field experts". Actually, the conditions under which subjective expertise is a basis for accurate discussions has been the subject of a discussion between Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein. I refer the interested reader to the link below (this paper is actually a wonderful example of two scholars who had opposite views on a topic, and who, through constructive dialogue, have been able to find a common ground): http://www.chrissnijders.com/eth2012/... So, if you want to learn something really about the value of subjective expertise, read Kahneman and Klein. But don't waste time and money on a book that is mostly self-promoting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liza

    This was an interesting experience - I agreed with so many of the points, and yet was also annoyed by the tone of a lot of this book. Quite a continental philosophy approach, which has its benefits but can also border on the woo-woo. I 100% agree about the importance of context and understanding rich, or "thick", data but I also think there are data users and thinkers doing great jobs of that already. I think I felt personally affronted at the idea that all data trained folks were so narrow-mind This was an interesting experience - I agreed with so many of the points, and yet was also annoyed by the tone of a lot of this book. Quite a continental philosophy approach, which has its benefits but can also border on the woo-woo. I 100% agree about the importance of context and understanding rich, or "thick", data but I also think there are data users and thinkers doing great jobs of that already. I think I felt personally affronted at the idea that all data trained folks were so narrow-minded and many of the examples seemed less than charitable early in the book. There are some nice examples of well-rounded successful thinkers later, though. And I guess I already agreed with the premise of the importance of arts degrees going in and had actively included liberal arts elements in my Science degree. Not sure if this book would convince you otherwise if you'd gone in with a different opinion and might make you think liberal arts graduates are a bit insufferable...

  4. 5 out of 5

    May Ling

    The message that there is more to algorithms than math is compelling. I agree with the author that there is something missing in the field of human decision making when math and statistics are used in a manner that is divorced from inference and understanding of the numbers. I'm not sure that this is the absolute strongest argument that could be made. Thick and Thin data are a bit of a sad attempt to say analysis that is good versus stuff could be done by a 10 year old. Still, this work dovetail The message that there is more to algorithms than math is compelling. I agree with the author that there is something missing in the field of human decision making when math and statistics are used in a manner that is divorced from inference and understanding of the numbers. I'm not sure that this is the absolute strongest argument that could be made. Thick and Thin data are a bit of a sad attempt to say analysis that is good versus stuff could be done by a 10 year old. Still, this work dovetails with some of the work I'm doing and going to be authoring in the future. Hence 4 stars for helping to bring audience awareness of the issues of thinking the problem is a human/social one. The world is - I agree - looking in the wrong direction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martin Olesen

    The point of not using big data and algorithms senselessly is important, but it's the only real point of the book. The author could have saved both the readers and himself a lot of time by conveying the same message in a blog post instead of reiterating it again and again for 200+ pages.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan Daker

    Anyone in business should consider this book an imperative read, however, if you are low on emotional intelligence the gist will be lost. We are in a data driven world. Madsbjerg gives example after example of the power of connecting humanities to algorithms. Whether it's in stock purchasing, training leaders or even in hostage negotiation, adding in the human element wins. You will even learn what phenomenology means! Note: at the beginning of the book, he used several examples from companies he w Anyone in business should consider this book an imperative read, however, if you are low on emotional intelligence the gist will be lost. We are in a data driven world. Madsbjerg gives example after example of the power of connecting humanities to algorithms. Whether it's in stock purchasing, training leaders or even in hostage negotiation, adding in the human element wins. You will even learn what phenomenology means! Note: at the beginning of the book, he used several examples from companies he was training....didn't care for the blatant advertisement. Then he left it alone the rest of the book and used other people's work

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro Teruel

    This is a book that argues in favor of applying a humanist perspective based on phenomenology to make sense of the complex problems of the world, and against relying on STEM-based approaches. Madsbjerg trots out specious and hoary arguments against such approaches. In his introduction he indicates that:This is a book about people. More specifically, this is a book about culture and the pendulum shifts of our age. Today we are so focused on STEM-based knowledge -theories from science, technology, This is a book that argues in favor of applying a humanist perspective based on phenomenology to make sense of the complex problems of the world, and against relying on STEM-based approaches. Madsbjerg trots out specious and hoary arguments against such approaches. In his introduction he indicates that:This is a book about people. More specifically, this is a book about culture and the pendulum shifts of our age. Today we are so focused on STEM-based knowledge -theories from science, technology, engineering and math- and the abstractions of “big data”- that alternative frameworks for explaining reality have been rendered close to obsolete. Yes, it is true that some writers get carried away and extravagantly claim that blind big data mining -this used to be called senseless and obsessive number crunching- can provide answers to important questions. This reminds me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) where Douglas Adams brilliantly satirized such claims, when he wrote that after 7.5 million years of computations, Deep Thought found that the “Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything” was 42... However a glimpse at the 2017 National Academies of Science, Engineering an Medicine’s “Committee on Integrating Higher Education in the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Engineering and Medicine” report on The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree clearly shows that the current focus on STEM is not only not opposed to other frameworks for explaining reality, but, at least in some mainstream quarters is actively working to integrate them. Madsbjerg ‘s stirring:If we truly want to make sense of our challenges, we must return to a a process that feels old-fashioned and out of date in today’s anesthetizing world of algorithmic promise. It’s something that has been sorely lacking in all of our organizations and across all aspects of our civic discourse. It’s called critical thinking.falls somewhat flat in the light of one of the committee’s least surprising findings:Surveys show that employers value graduates who have both technical depth in a given discipline and cross-cutting “twenty-first century” skills and knowledge, such as critical thinking, communications skills, the ability to work well in teams, ethical reasoning, and creativity. So, is Madsbjerg barking up the wrong tree? I believe that Madsbjerg is right when he claims that there are still people in important places that cling onto misguided reductionist, quantitative perspectives and need help in grasping the “bigger picture” but I also believe that there are still people who cling onto no less misguided fuzzy, intuitive perspectives and need help grounding them in reality. Bashing strawmen you set up may be emotionally rewarding but it must not be confused with serious argumentation. Critical thinking may be in shorter supply than what we need, but it is required in STEM, in the Humanities, in Art and in any attempt to integrate them. Researchers working with “big data” strive to find interesting, useful patterns in that data; whether “sense” is an emergent property of certain connectionist models applied to rich data sets is an interesting question in its own right. Remember however that for decades now, statisticians have been routinely warning their students not to confuse correlation with causality -Spurious correlations is a hilarious book based on a well-known website which helps drive home this point. Madsbjerg’s foward starts by presenting several interesting examples of people so engrossed in the trees, they cannot see the forest. He then takes an unfair swipe at a caricature of STEM and big data and makes his clarion call on behalf of “critical thinking”. In his introduction, The Human Factor, he again tells a rather lopsided story:We humans have been getting some bad press lately. Not a day goes by without hearing about how irrational or inefficient we are when compared with machines. Next to our sleek silicon-powered computer counterparts, our brains are sluggish and burdened by emotions. [...]We need to learn through experience, and what we learn doesn’t have the same precision, rigor, or consistency as algorithms.If this were true, why are researchers so excited about programming robots with “emotions”? Why indeed are neural networks and deep learning, systems which needs to learn through experience, such hot areas of research in Artifical Intelligence? It is simply not true as he claims, that in engineering circles “the human factor […] is another way of saying the capacity for error”. If you read the introduction quickly, what will stick in your mind are phrases like:...The solution to the human problem seems straightforward. If we want to remain useful – and employed – we should cede territory to the algorithms all around us – even become subservient to them. […] At the most prestigious universities in the United States, liberal arts fields like English and history used to be among the most popular majors, but a surge in interest in engineering and the natural sciences has decimated many humanities departments. […] A humanities-based understanding of different people and their worlds is now officially useless. After all, compared to the endless information accessible through big data, what value is there in human-led cultural inquiry? […] Too many of the top cadre of leadership I have met are isolated in their worldview. They have lost touch with the humanity of their customers and their constituents and, as a result, they mistake numerical representations and models for real life. […] [F]ixation with hard data often masks stunning deficiencies, and many such lower-level managers will hit a glass ceiling in today’s business world. They are reductionists without the sensitivity to recognize the most exciting and essential patterns.but if you read it more carefully you will notice that, perhaps a little grudgingly, Madsbjerg is actually arguing for humanities + STEM:After nearly twenty years of counseling the very top executives and management around the world, I can tell you that the most successful leaders are curious, broadly educated people who can read both a novel and a spreadsheet. [A] former CEO of Procter & Gamble, had one single piece of advice for achieving business success in today’s complex managerial environment: pursue a degree in the liberal arts. “By studying art, science, the humanities, social science, and languages […] the mind develops the mental dexterity that opens a person to new ideas, which is the currency for success in a constantly changing environment….”In the first chapter the author briefly explains what he means by his practice of sensemaking. Although the author would eschew the term the term, this practice is a design practice based on ethnographical studies of concrete human experience and based on five “principles”: 1. Culture - not individuals; 2. Thick data -not just thin data; 3. The savannah -not the zoo [by which he means study the problem in its natural surroundings, not just in the lab] 4. Creativity -not manufacturing [by which he means engaging in a mindset that searches for insights and breakthroughs and steering clear of a “business as usual”mindset] 5. The North Star -not GPS […] learn to navigate through the rich reality of our world, developing a finely honed perspective on where we are, and where we are headed.After perhaps the worst chapter (Silicon Valley is a State of Mind) in the book in which the author indulges himself by knocking over flimsy versions of the assumptions underlying disruptive innovations, big data, and frictionless technology, he devotes a chapter to each of the five principles mentioned above. There are some interesting insights in some of these uneven chapters, but in general he hovers over rather than grapples with the principles., plops in some interesting anecdotal evidence usually based on his consulting work and provides some very slapdash pointers to semiotics, discourse theory, Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theories, Ervin Goffman dramaturgical analysis, Marshall Sahlin’s anthropological theories of reciprocity, and Wittgenstein’s theory of language, Heidegger’s philosophical ideas as examples of pointers that help bolster Madsbjerg’s claim of the importance of sociological, anthropological, language and philosophical theories to real-life consulting work. In his chapter on Crearivity, -not Manufacturing, Madsbjerg also suprisingly and violently lashes out against “design thinking” (Design Thinking: The anatomy of a bullshit tornado) and is particularly cutting in his comments about IDEO -to an unkind outsider this seems reminiscent of the pot calling the kettle black or the bitter feuds between closely related schools of thought, scathingly portrayed by Swift in his account of little-endians and big-endians in Lilliput…. The chapter is a close runner-up to the worst chapter in the book, not only for the gratuitious and unfair onslaught on design thinking but also for the mocking and frankly unnecessary section on an expert charlatan (Martin solves the problems). The final chapter, What are people for?, gracefully ends the book. To wrap up, this is a very uneven book, interspersing frankly misleading or unfair material as well as some interesting insights and ideas that should have been better served had they been developed in more detail. To be read with more than a pinch of salt.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Doyle

    Sensemaking attempts to make Heidegger digestible and relevant for modern decision-makers. The central argument is that context is everything when it comes to understanding and predicting collective human behavior. Our cultures - religion, norms, values - determine our behavior. Our independent will is largely an illusion. This view sets the stage for an argument that literature, history, sociology etc are vastly more important domains for understanding context and human actions than are "data a Sensemaking attempts to make Heidegger digestible and relevant for modern decision-makers. The central argument is that context is everything when it comes to understanding and predicting collective human behavior. Our cultures - religion, norms, values - determine our behavior. Our independent will is largely an illusion. This view sets the stage for an argument that literature, history, sociology etc are vastly more important domains for understanding context and human actions than are "data and algorithms." The book is worthwhile for anyone who is unconvinced that data are not the key to every insight.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I honestly had high hopes for this book just based on the description. The last humanities class I have taken was back in high school. I have since gotten a Masters degree and work at a Liberal Arts college where I questioned whether humanities classes or majors were a good idea since data shows that STEM fields generally lead to higher paying jobs, or just jobs in general related to the material studied. With increasing student debt, I also questioned why or even how students were able to have I honestly had high hopes for this book just based on the description. The last humanities class I have taken was back in high school. I have since gotten a Masters degree and work at a Liberal Arts college where I questioned whether humanities classes or majors were a good idea since data shows that STEM fields generally lead to higher paying jobs, or just jobs in general related to the material studied. With increasing student debt, I also questioned why or even how students were able to have these majors. Throughout my time working, I have changed my view point slightly, and do see the value of being able to think more broadly. However, this book did not give me any new ideas. If anything, there were a lot of references to other people or books that I have read, such as Chris Voss's negotiation skills based on extraordinary observation skills and Daniel Kahneman's behavioral economics. The first few chapters it just seemed like the author was really trying to put down data and STEM fields for being very closed minded and following set rules, but that has not been my experience at all. For any algorithm to work, creativity does need to be included, the same with the sciences, maths, engineering, and technology. Unfortunately for the author, there have been algorithms that have been able to generate articles or even stories that have been liked by people. If there is a way to think through the process of an action, or even explain a pattern, and algorithm can be written, such as how the author interprets how on teacher connects with her students. A lot of the time, this felt like a lecture or textbook in the sense that I would read a few paragraphs, and not remember what I had just read. There were a lot of interesting examples of where creativity was used to ask different questions of the intended customers/audience, but that still resulted in data being collected. Sciences, even the hard/physical sciences, do teach the difference between quantitative and qualitative data, and why they are both important. It is just that currently, our human species seems to be more interested in the quantitative because of how far it seems to be getting us as a society.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Respectable

    Refreshing to see a book promoting a sensible approach towards integrating data driven approaches to problem solving along with narrative/story driven methods as opposed to idolizing big data and machine learning as some sort of ultimate destination, which sadly is not exactly uncommon these days. In the age of measurement and algorithms it is taken for granted that objective facts must always be valued over subjective feelings and intuitions. The human element is often seen as an obstacle towar Refreshing to see a book promoting a sensible approach towards integrating data driven approaches to problem solving along with narrative/story driven methods as opposed to idolizing big data and machine learning as some sort of ultimate destination, which sadly is not exactly uncommon these days. In the age of measurement and algorithms it is taken for granted that objective facts must always be valued over subjective feelings and intuitions. The human element is often seen as an obstacle towards achieving complete clarity. But if we look deeper, we see that stories are powerful and human narratives allow us to uncover different truths about the world we live in. The reason is that data driven approaches ignore context in an effort to scale the solution whereas stories don't. And context can make a big difference in determining whether we can understand what is really going. I liked the real-world examples on how the de-contextualizing effect of data driven methods (that operate by choosing a set of metrics to measure and ignore completely the context in which the phenomenon occurs) lead to suboptimal decision in industries, politics, and the sciences. The author convincingly argues that algorithms that operate on data (at least the ones we know of till date) are often only good for making progress of a very specific kind--incremental progress, whereas the power of the narrative is that it celebrates context and allows us to uncover the underlying, deeper human motivations behind the problem at hand and thereby paves the way towards progress is that game-changing or "disruptive". The quote attributed to Henry Ford about people wanting faster horses comes to mind. Some of the chapters are really well-written whereas there were a few odd ones which read like a strawman bash-fest that were less interesting to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm is a noble attempt and pushback at showing how thinking and practices dominated by skills grounded in the broad humanities allows one to understand the context and uses of what is commonly known as "big data". Madsbjerg, a Danish business consultant, does a fine job of showing how the liberal arts is helping corporations like Ford and notable architects, derive meaning from all its gathered data about consumer habits. He strongl Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm is a noble attempt and pushback at showing how thinking and practices dominated by skills grounded in the broad humanities allows one to understand the context and uses of what is commonly known as "big data". Madsbjerg, a Danish business consultant, does a fine job of showing how the liberal arts is helping corporations like Ford and notable architects, derive meaning from all its gathered data about consumer habits. He strongly points out a single reliance on the information will, by nature lead the producers and managers of the world away from understandings of how their customers and users are humans and not producers on content and information. I do wish he had delved into how a life trained in the liberal arts, with its emphasis on precedent and experience, context and broad reading and gathering main theses and showing the inner connectedness of information has worked so well for people. His concluding thoughts of asking "what are people for", echoing Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, hits on this book's greatest points, that people are meant to connect with each other and not simply bounce content and be independent data collectors off each other. Madsbjerg's contribution here is showing how he and others are helping organizations get unstuck to unleash their energies, rather than simply be led by stunted data conclusions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikos Karamalegkos

    Sensemaking is an interesting and thought-provoking book, which pinpoints the pivotal role of human sciences in driving not only optimal individual but also enterprise-wide performance. Mr. Madsbjerg describes vividly case studies that validate the conviction that human sciences can cultivate the essential perspective to solve business problems, and at the same time depicts the inefficiency of the “silicon valley state of mind” to confront and make sense of the non-linear changes of our times. T Sensemaking is an interesting and thought-provoking book, which pinpoints the pivotal role of human sciences in driving not only optimal individual but also enterprise-wide performance. Mr. Madsbjerg describes vividly case studies that validate the conviction that human sciences can cultivate the essential perspective to solve business problems, and at the same time depicts the inefficiency of the “silicon valley state of mind” to confront and make sense of the non-linear changes of our times. The question in the title of the book (“What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm”) has come to the fore lately, either in the context of the rapid development of AI or in terms of the changes in human behavior and choice (as consumers or voters) and his book yields a rigorous answer Mr. Madsbjerg asserts in his book that “…by studying art, science, the humanities, social science and languages the mind develops the mental dexterity that opens a person to new ideas, which is the currency for success in a constantly changing environment…”. Reading this book and contemplating on the ideas that are articulated in it, makes unambiguously sense of the above sentence.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tathagat Varma

    While doing my masters in Computer Science, I had not a single course on the softer mushy human and social sciences. So, while we learnt formal logic and how to write a compiler, or even design an expert system, unfortunately, we didn't learn almost anything about people, the human beings! Little much has changed in those thirty years. Even today, I continue to find armies of tech graduates year after year with practically no knowledge or appreciation of #humanities. And in the tech bubble that While doing my masters in Computer Science, I had not a single course on the softer mushy human and social sciences. So, while we learnt formal logic and how to write a compiler, or even design an expert system, unfortunately, we didn't learn almost anything about people, the human beings! Little much has changed in those thirty years. Even today, I continue to find armies of tech graduates year after year with practically no knowledge or appreciation of #humanities. And in the tech bubble that we techies live in, we hardly ever think of its "utility" - indeed, one would learn Python and R than reading "useless" theories of human learning or reading classics. The result is that we can make sense out of a well-structured and bounded #complexity problem, but are ill-equipped to handle ill-structured and unbounded complexity problem. We know how to write code, but we still don't quite have a faintest idea on how to make sense out of everyday complexity. So, how does one go about #sensemaking? Are there mathematical formulas or sophisticated algorithms that could help? Fortunately, none of them help, and the only way we could hope to find a way is by looking up to humanities for help.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cliff Chew

    I have mixed feelings for this book. Initially, I thought this book was going to explain how humanities and liberal arts can complement our new world of algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence, which would be really useful for my work. So I was quite disappointed when this was not what the book was trying to do. This said, the book did cover some interesting topics on culture and sociology that still end up being a rather insightful and meaningful read. I particularly like how t I have mixed feelings for this book. Initially, I thought this book was going to explain how humanities and liberal arts can complement our new world of algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence, which would be really useful for my work. So I was quite disappointed when this was not what the book was trying to do. This said, the book did cover some interesting topics on culture and sociology that still end up being a rather insightful and meaningful read. I particularly like how the book concluded on the use of humanities in the modern AI world. I would say I didn't appreciate the author's critic at design thinking. I am a data analyst, and although I have some exposure to design thinking approaches, I have no vested interest defending design thinking in any way. All in all, I was glad to have read this book because I felt that it did open up my mind to many new things beyond my work, which I have to admit, was a very narrow view to adopt for reading any book, at least not all the time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fanny Vassilatos

    Full review/key learnings on my website In Sensemaking, Madsbjerg advocates for educating corporate decision-makers about the subtleties of the humanities and social sciences to future-proof progress for the greater good. The premise of this book is about the unbalance in the world of business between STEM-based knowledge and the humanities. The author argues that if we bring more social sciences to decision-making, we can work with thick data —data infused with meaning by keeping it embedded in i Full review/key learnings on my website In Sensemaking, Madsbjerg advocates for educating corporate decision-makers about the subtleties of the humanities and social sciences to future-proof progress for the greater good. The premise of this book is about the unbalance in the world of business between STEM-based knowledge and the humanities. The author argues that if we bring more social sciences to decision-making, we can work with thick data —data infused with meaning by keeping it embedded in its original context— instead of thin data —abstracted values and numbers. The practice of sensemaking is about pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is invaluable to extract any relevant insight. And to achieve that, the only way is to extensively read and consume culture and theories from all parts of history and from a variety of topics. "The humanities aren't a luxury; they're your competitive advantage."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Blake

    Fascinating guy, but it took me a while to get into this book, and I was a bit frustrated by how the arguments didn’t seem to land as decisively as I was hoping for. They just kind of flowed on to the next and the next without good strong punctuation between them (at least that’s how I felt). But the content is undeniably relevant for the big data obsessed world we live in at the moment. What resonated with me the most is how our education systems are churning out people with precisely all the sk Fascinating guy, but it took me a while to get into this book, and I was a bit frustrated by how the arguments didn’t seem to land as decisively as I was hoping for. They just kind of flowed on to the next and the next without good strong punctuation between them (at least that’s how I felt). But the content is undeniably relevant for the big data obsessed world we live in at the moment. What resonated with me the most is how our education systems are churning out people with precisely all the skills that we know computers are better at (or going to be better at). Doesn’t it make a ton more sense to be educating and training people in those skills/areas where the human touch is still essential and most likely will be for quite a long time? The last chapter with the case studies was my favourite. Skim that if you’re wondering whether to try your book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ramakalyan Ayyagari

    The initial part, well almost 75% of the book, was not so exciting to me (interestingly, I pre-ordered this book and bought it). First, as a control theorist I am fully aware of all the technical matter behind the narration. Secondly, after having a heavy dose from Nassim Taleb (Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan), the issues addressed here were largely repetitive. However, it is the last two chapters - one on navigation (although this has the flavour of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and the l The initial part, well almost 75% of the book, was not so exciting to me (interestingly, I pre-ordered this book and bought it). First, as a control theorist I am fully aware of all the technical matter behind the narration. Secondly, after having a heavy dose from Nassim Taleb (Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan), the issues addressed here were largely repetitive. However, it is the last two chapters - one on navigation (although this has the flavour of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and the last one "What are People for?" - were written exceedingly well, and tipped my rating to 4 stars! I believe it is time that we sensitize our industry as well as the governments about the need for research and development towards a holistic product rather than an optimal product.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tor

    Brilliant book on decision-making in a data driven age. Sensemaking is about understanding human culture and the context in which it operates. It revolves around holistic thinking. See between the lines of data; understand not just what people buy but what these people buy. Sensemaking is a relevant skill in the age of big data, and could be a competitive advantage in the age of AI. Humans can comprehend "thick data" better, that is the context of the data. Important concepts for entrepreneurs: 1 Brilliant book on decision-making in a data driven age. Sensemaking is about understanding human culture and the context in which it operates. It revolves around holistic thinking. See between the lines of data; understand not just what people buy but what these people buy. Sensemaking is a relevant skill in the age of big data, and could be a competitive advantage in the age of AI. Humans can comprehend "thick data" better, that is the context of the data. Important concepts for entrepreneurs: 1) Phenomenology: sensemaking based on experiencing not hypothizing. Experience things as they are, not as how we think they are. 2) Creative ideas begin with immersion and sensitivity. Henry Ford got his vision of famous factor line by a visit to a pig farm.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Good concepts, but too vague to really be useful. Richly illustrated with story after story after story, but lacking the clarity and crystallization to bring together what it all really means. Worse, that seems to be deliberate- the book talks a great deal about just getting into the midst of things and intuitively figuring things out by immersion. The book itself operates similarly- using stories for the reader to immerse him/herself in as a means to understand the concepts, rather than clearly Good concepts, but too vague to really be useful. Richly illustrated with story after story after story, but lacking the clarity and crystallization to bring together what it all really means. Worse, that seems to be deliberate- the book talks a great deal about just getting into the midst of things and intuitively figuring things out by immersion. The book itself operates similarly- using stories for the reader to immerse him/herself in as a means to understand the concepts, rather than clearly laying things out. This is a book to be absorbed, to get a general sense of, but not to come away from with a solid, actionable set of ideas- just a hazy sort of "I kinda think I may be getting what the author means, but I'm not 100% sure."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Boon

    I picked up this book expecting it to be a defiant defense of the humanities in a world hooked on science. Instead it used some made up words (sensemaking being one of them) to show how we can understand the world - nothing different than what humanities and social scientists have known, and shown us, all along. The book is likely meant for a business audience who know nothing about the humanities and social sciences and think the new words the author has coined fit right into their HR jargon. B I picked up this book expecting it to be a defiant defense of the humanities in a world hooked on science. Instead it used some made up words (sensemaking being one of them) to show how we can understand the world - nothing different than what humanities and social scientists have known, and shown us, all along. The book is likely meant for a business audience who know nothing about the humanities and social sciences and think the new words the author has coined fit right into their HR jargon. But if you already know what humanities & social sciences are about, and you know how to use your knowledge in these areas to navigate life, you're well ahead of the curve compared to this author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Kaye

    Tim Harford said last year "Sensemaking...looks interesting", which is why it ended up on my pile. And the early parts are, but even at 200 pages this book is too long, and the second half seems to be padding with examples that often feel made to fit. The underlying premise is, indeed, sens-ible, and having read more about Heidegger and Husserl in the last year or so, and thanks here to Sarah Bakewell, I feel that the originals. however hard, are worth much more time than these management-speak Tim Harford said last year "Sensemaking...looks interesting", which is why it ended up on my pile. And the early parts are, but even at 200 pages this book is too long, and the second half seems to be padding with examples that often feel made to fit. The underlying premise is, indeed, sens-ible, and having read more about Heidegger and Husserl in the last year or so, and thanks here to Sarah Bakewell, I feel that the originals. however hard, are worth much more time than these management-speak books (and Madsbjerg would be horrified to have his words described thus, but he is marketing a company on the back of all this).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex Stefan

    Surprisingly good read, especially since his other book didn't manage to impress me. Coming from an applied anthropologist, the presence of phenomenologists, philosophers and academic theories is a great touch and I will definitely recommend it to students, especially if they are interested in consulting and/or market research. Shows how to frame problems in order to understand them, which is the only thing that matters, in the end. And I'm a bit biased, but he calls bs on design thinking, which Surprisingly good read, especially since his other book didn't manage to impress me. Coming from an applied anthropologist, the presence of phenomenologists, philosophers and academic theories is a great touch and I will definitely recommend it to students, especially if they are interested in consulting and/or market research. Shows how to frame problems in order to understand them, which is the only thing that matters, in the end. And I'm a bit biased, but he calls bs on design thinking, which is the right thing to do from a discipline that thrives in understanding humans and doesn't sacrifice people for a 5 step process.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I read Madsbjerg's _Moment of Clarity_ some years ago and thought _Sensemaking_ would provide a slightly more hands-on depiction of applied ethnographic techniques. This book was more practical, but still slightly short on detail and long on polemic. The book's central thesis is valuable. There are a lot of things that can't meaningfully be quantified or directly compared, and any kind of successful entrepreneurial process needs to account for the qualia of human experience. Doing so requires int I read Madsbjerg's _Moment of Clarity_ some years ago and thought _Sensemaking_ would provide a slightly more hands-on depiction of applied ethnographic techniques. This book was more practical, but still slightly short on detail and long on polemic. The book's central thesis is valuable. There are a lot of things that can't meaningfully be quantified or directly compared, and any kind of successful entrepreneurial process needs to account for the qualia of human experience. Doing so requires intense familiarity with cultural contexts, social intuition, active listening, and other sorts of "soft" skills. These are precisely the skills that plenty of would-be technocrats, technologists, and "rationalists" ignore or denigrate. Madsbjerg reserves particular scorn for "Silicon Valley" as a sort of cultural embodiment of that mindset. I agree entirely, but don't need dozens of pages belaboring that point and would have enjoyed a deeper discussion of qualitative and ethnographic research.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Fantastic perspective on how to incorporate technology into already successful human interaction. The concept of valuing whole scenarios, existence based upon context instead of cognition, is important in shaping a balanced take on this new, big data era. We can think ourselves to death if we don't simply ask "does this make sense." The formal structure of the Sensemaking approach seems to work and is valuable to aspiring coaches and consultants.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I enjoyed this book and found it to be somewhat of a valuable antidote to our currently fashionable worship of numbers. Madsjberg touches on a number of subtopics -- the importance of cultural knowledge, neuroplasticity, and what learning looks like from an observational standpoint, for example -- and his supporting anecdotes are useful and sometimes fascinating (George Soros and German culture was a favorite.). My gripe is that sometimes his subpoints came across as repetitive. A closer reread I enjoyed this book and found it to be somewhat of a valuable antidote to our currently fashionable worship of numbers. Madsjberg touches on a number of subtopics -- the importance of cultural knowledge, neuroplasticity, and what learning looks like from an observational standpoint, for example -- and his supporting anecdotes are useful and sometimes fascinating (George Soros and German culture was a favorite.). My gripe is that sometimes his subpoints came across as repetitive. A closer reread of some parts made the distinctions a bit clearer, but I think there were areas of glossing rather than explaining terms clearly. Overall, a very worthwhile read, though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Pearce

    I enjoyed the early part of this book tremendously. The discussions about how big data only makes sense in context and the difficulty of making good decisions in business when you are removed from the environment in which that decision needs to be made were common sense but still fascinating. However, as the book progressed I found it became a little repetitive and I felt that the author moved away from evidence-based discussion to personal opinion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I enjoyed how Madsbjerg brought in the different philosophers/philosophies that informed these ideas; an exquisite defense of non-linear reasoning, and being human in general (phenomenology!). Another great companion to A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. "What are people for? Algorithms can do many things, but they will never actually give a damn. People are for caring."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ernesto Espinoza

    Insightful, inspiring and written from the heart. The author gives us a most significant lesson for the 21st century: not technology but the humanities are the future. In an AI world, our art, sense of care and purpose will drive our will and economy. It does it now without noticing it. I truly recommend this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike Clinton

    This was an enjoyable read that offered some compelling points and evidence about the continuing value of the humanities as a way of creating human sense in a world threatened by the specter a hegemonic STEM culture. It was really written for a different audience, though, and I probably read the whole book only out of a sense of sympathy and because it was easy to do so.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jakub Lupták

    An intriguing case for humanities - slightly suffers from somewhat overstated examples and in repeatedly promoting sensemaking as the ultimate answer falls for the same problems it highlights in other, somewhat arbitrary, ‘mindsets’ But overall a worthwhile read and resonates with certain of my gut feelings on big data.

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