“No one travels quite so high as he who knows not where he is going.”
Oliver Cromwell

Daniel Schmachtenberger on Sensemaking

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How do you make sense in a messy, noisy and misleading information ecology?

Watching this made me feel both:

  1. A sense of belonging that comes from experiencing a deep and thoughtful shared interest.
  2. A sense of lostness … this feels like (yet another) deep insight that doesn’t really matter … because … who is going to take this to heart and change something about their sensemaking and information ecology?

I also felt disappointment with the title. I do not feel that there is a war on sensemaking. I feel that framing is tainted and narrow. I think we may be getting a taste of deeper forms of sensemaking that we’ve never really had and that they are emerging because of the unprecedented challenges of sense-making that we are facing.

I appreciated Daniel’s attempt to provide a constructive “to do” at the end of the conversation. I also appreciated the idea of investing in synthesis … but that is where some of the lostness came in:

  1. I think there are very few people who have the awareness, skill, and conditions to be able to hold the kind of conversation Daniel is describing.
  2. I think that there are many (if not most situations) in which there isn’t a real possibility for synthesis. What kind of synthesis is there to create with a flat-earther (assuming there is a flat-earther with the ability and earnestness to have such a conversation in the first place)? There is a part of me that wants to embrace the idea that every person carries some valuable signal … but I have doubts about the truth or merit of that assumption. I feel there are fields in which synthesis can be a valuable strategy and fields where it is an incorrect and unsuitable strategy. I feel that there are ideas that are obsolete and irrelevant; that there are ideas that need to be rejected and cannot (and should not) be synthesized; that the people that hold them are not available to synthesis … and that a best-case scenario is that these ideas will die together with the people who give them life.

BECAUSE I resonated so deeply with the presentation I also wondered if it has a dominant masculine flavor? I am not sure that the underlying assumption that things need to make sense (which appeals to me personally!) is complete or workable in the real world.

Ironically, shortly after watching this I also watched these three videos which together form a kind of debate. The first video making a claim. The second video attacking that claim, then reframing it by going deeper. The third video attempting to build a bridge. These are all mathematicians who are supposedly exemplars of rigorous thought and a healthy information ecology … and if they find sensemaking to be so challenging … what does that mean for the rest of us?

If like me, Daniel’s presentation left you wanting more you may want to listen to this follow-up conversation in which Daniel participates. The conversation feels to me dominated by Jordan Hall who strikes me as a good example of excessive-intellectualizing that seems to dominate the “meta-modern” conversation space … but that made Daniel’s rare contributions even sweeter:

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