Sensemaking has been defined as "the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalize what people are doing". It is the bridge between theory (that explains concepts) and practice (that catalogues actions). In that role it provides deeper meaning by creating plausible explanations for the decision making that is encoded in actions.
Behavior, whether that of the consumer looking for a bargain, the company CEO seeking to maximize profit or that of a search user looking for a particular piece of actionable information; can be better understood when the motivation behind it can be analyzed. The primary source of all motivation is emotion. The manifestation of emotion is action. By examining the pathways through which emotion and action are linked we establish the role played by data, culture, trust and context.
An action all by itself tells us little. A series of actions however constitute a behavioral pattern. Behavioral patterns can be analyzed so that intent can become clearer. Understanding intent is key to providing satisfaction at any touchpoint where a relational exchange takes place.
What follows is a formula of sorts for doing better in business, search, marketing, selling and even your own personal relationships. You will need to think how the actions you engage in as you work (or live your life) give rise to reactions that result in schemas in the minds of those who see them which, in turn, become motivations for particular types of behavior.
Out of necessity I have taken a highly reductionist process here that links theory and practice, thought and action. It starts with trust, or rather, the perception of trust:
Trust itself is directly formed through a four-step process: Contact > Perception > Assessment > Connection, but before we even get to that stage, the perception of trust that drives reputation is governed by the way we are seen to “know our stuff”, care about those we hope to do business with and be willing to address change, gaps in our knowledge, issues that arise and developments in our field of expertise.
Perception is a Construct
Perception is a construct however. It is created by Data, which is useless without Relevance, which gives rise to Context, which is then filtered through Experience and Awareness.
Everything is a Decision
We make decisions all the time. But not all decisions are equal. Waking up and getting to the kitchen to get some coffee is not on a par, for example, with waking up and deciding to go to work and hand in a letter of resignation.
Every decision is refined through the twin filters of uncertainty and fear. Flawed decision making is the result of poor judgement. Poor judgement ascribes the wrong value to uncertainty (that determines knowledge and facts) and fear (which determines risk). Jumping out of an airplane, at high altitude, without a parachute, for instance is definitely an example where the risk factor has been minimized and the available facts that would safeguard our safety has, without real justification, been maximized.
Every decision is the result of choice between options of a certain value. Every choice has consequences.
Our Toolkit Needs Upgrading
The skills we bring to the ‘job’ at hand; whatever that job may turn out to be, need to be upgraded. At a minimum, we need to have:
- The proper mindset
- An awareness of our red lines (goal tradeoffs)
- Workarounds (that come from knowledge or experience and help us quickly navigate complex situations)
- Problem detection and diagnosis skills
- Trust building capabilities
- Predictive analysis skills (otherwise the future is completely closed to us)
- Boundary conditions for the processes and procedures we carry out (some might even call this “ethics”)
- Situational awareness (so we can understand intent and values and prioritize actions and responses correctly)
- Perceptual discrimination (because not everything we see is equal in value to us)
- Uncertainty and Ambiguity management skills (so we know how to best factor “known unknowns, and unknown unknowns” in our decision making
- Attention management skills (so we can correctly apportion our focus and energy to help us achieve our goals)
- Job smarts (so we are halfway decent in our line of work)
Sniper Marketing is a Response
Sniper Marketing is a response to the complexity of working (and living) in a fluid environment where the usual methods of assessing opportunities and threats in inadequate and where the resources required to reach an outcome are always greater than what we have to work with.
Sniper marketing then is a method of operating based upon ten distinct modalities that raise our game in virtually any context.
Authenticity is a Shortcut
We are hardwired to take shortcuts because shortcuts represent a higher ROI for us. In a world where fluidity is the norm and complexity is a given authenticity becomes a shortcut by reducing the amount of energy required to carry out a certain action. From motivation (feeling) > to plan (thought) > to action (behavior) authenticity delivers significant savings in time and energy by providing a ready-made filter of values and priorities which allow the correct (and easier) apportion of mental, emotional and physical resources (and this also works with material ones in a wider, organizational setting) which then deliver clear aims that lead to attention and focus.
The boundaries we set; to what we are willing to do also define our values and determine part of our motivation because they directly affect how we feel. An executioner tasked to chop off heads with an axe, for instance, needs to know that the people he executes are true vile criminals that are a direct menace to society and beyond any hope of redemption.
The code of conduct in the illustration below is a minimum starting point.
Behavior Reflects Needs, Values and Beliefs
Google’s micro-moments and the customer journey are a classic example of how mining specific instances to understand intent leads to also understanding a particular physical, emotional or psychological need and the context through which it arises.
The three dimensions of Self, Society and Mind are a microcosm of the much broader global marketplace where the specific values may change, but their presence won’t.
Data Gives Rise to Culture
Data, of course, are specific actions. The way we choose to speak or dress. The music we may decide to listen to. The place we may want to live in. The job we may choose to do. These are all specific points of action that collectively give rise to culture. Balanced decision making requires not just data, but also an awareness of culture and context.
It is worth remembering that: data creates culture, culture gives rise to context, but context changes the value of data by changing our ideas, values and beliefs. A classic example of this is the retrospective reassessment of popular Christmas songs whose lyrics are viewed through the lens of the #MeToo movement.
Unless you want to be remembered, like Marco Polo, as a unicorn-perceiving, uncritical thinker, you’ll have to learn to look for deeper causes to what you see.
You can only do that if you learn to understand:
- Assumptions and how they arise (the known knowns and known unknowns)
- Beliefs (why we think something is the way it is)
- Culture (the entire set of beliefs, values, and intent)
- Attitudes (what is possible, what isn’t, what may be permissible and what is not)
The Individual is Key
The building block of everything is human behavior and that starts with each person. To understand that you need to understand your: friends, partner, audience, countrymen, fellow humans; take your pick depending on your intent and the context within which you are working with.
Critical Thinking to the Rescue
We require the ability to create new ontologies because the world we live in is changing fast. Ontologies allow us to create order out of facts (we basically structure data). The process is the same whether we are talking about semantic search or the mental schemas we use to better understand and navigate the world.
It is worth, at this point, to remind ourselves that basically structure creates meaning out of the chaos of accumulated data and context creates relevance and localized value to that meaning.
The Way We Think
By reverse engineering the way we think we also get to better understand how the brain perceives values like expertise and authority and evaluates trust.
Everything is a System
When everything is a system complexity is the direct result of nested systems. Activities such as content creation and search are nothing more than a relational exchange of information which, when communicated in a meaningful and relevant manner, creates a trustworthy environment and a positive experience.
Semantic search changed everything by linking search results to real-world concepts and things in its "From Strings to Things" incantation. Sniper Marketing is doing the same by linking abstract thoughts, needs and desires to direct, observable actions from which intent can be worked out. A true "From Axons to Actions" journey that reveals motivation and makes everything we do just a little bit clearer.
One thing leads to another. Everything is interconnected.
Three Books. One Picture:
(strategy) (tactics) (concepts)