The SenseCanvas is a tool for mapping aspects of a situation or challenge and for improving group decisions with the help of rough (told) experiences of people.
The Canvas offers structure when making decisions. The Canvas distinguishes itself from other sensemaking (meaning-giving) models and frameworks by the explicit support for evaluating internal and external aspects.
The SenseCanvas is very suitable for situations in which groups must give meaning to both internal and external developments and also want to develop internal and external interventions. We also use the SenseCanvas in all phases of the StoryCycle.
The Sense Canvas
The Sense Canvas has 7 planes that are used to map aspects of situations or events. Each type of aspect comes with a type of intervention. The aspects and associated interventions for outer 6 planes are:
- Control aspects – If cause and effect are certain, there is control. Measures can be taken for this.
- Orderly aspects – If expert analysis can yield new information about complicated matters. Then research is a suitable intervention
- Organizational aspects – For organizational challenges, reorganization is the appropriate tool.
- Complex aspects – If the effects of interventions are uncertain, an attempt can be made to influence the situation with experiments.
- Autonomous aspects – Restructuring involves changing through autonomous aspects.
- Chaotic aspects – If no structure is known or visible. These can possibly be discovered through exploration.
The middle plane is called self and is meant for aspects that form the essence of the organization:
- Values - This includes aspects that say something about the heart choices of the organization. Who she wants to be. These can be influenced by communicating narratives (storytelling) that propagate or reinforce the (new or existing) values of the organizations.
- Identities – This includes aspects that say something about how the organization is viewed or wants to be seen by its environment. These can be influenced by communicating normative narratives (storytelling) about the desired (ethical, safe, customer-oriented) actions of employees.
The SenseCanvas is similar to the Confluence Sensemaking Framework and the Cynefin model. The SenseCanvas has a long history and continues to develop. Not least because we also use it for designing StoryPoints and StoryDashboard, designing new StoryConnect applications and for evaluating projects. The SenseCanvas is therefore the basis for many of the steps of the StoryCycle.
We use the SenseCanvas among other things in meetings where groups of people work with stories / observations / experiences. The Sense Canvas is then placed on the table as a tablecloth (about 2 by 2 meters). People read and work with the narrative information and “tagging” aspects. They place them in the right place on the canvas for them. For example, matters about cooperation or control or chaotic aspects of a process.
In this way they together create an overview of what is going on and they can then define actions. Depending on the nature of the underlying reality, for example, it is about letting go or sorting out or doing an experiment or organizing cooperation differently. The SenseCanvas helps to come to thoughtful action in a matter of hours.
We also use the SenseCanvas in the process to design a storytelling point. We then tag, for example, which topics or behaviors occur in the provocation questions and / or the questions about the experiences. Together with the customer (or the development team) we thus gain insight into which aspects are emphasized in the narrative and which receive less attention. We then adjust the design with this insight.
Other SenseCanvas versions
The SenseCanvas is related to other sensemaking models. There are dozens of them. For some it makes sense to have the SenseCanvas around the SenseCanvas available in – more or less – the same shape.
- Cynthia Kurtz’ Confluence Sensemaking Framework
The Cynefin model by Cynthia Kurtz, Dave Snowden and a few others
The Knowledge in Formation model from Sarbo, Farkas and van Breemen
These three are below.
To the right is the form we use to help groups identify types of interventions. At the far right is the form that is used to map nested situations or organizations.
This open-space version of the SenseCanvas is inspired by the Confluence Sensemaking Framework. It is suitable for groups that can think in an abstract way and like to start a discussion.
This Cynefin-style variant of the SenseCanvas can be used to explain the differences between Cynefin and the SenseCanvas. In particular the new areas of cooperation and autonomy and of course the “self” aspects that replace disorder.
We use the Knowledge-in-Formation variant of the SenseCanvas to visualize decision processes. The left-hand side is the “business-as-usual” fine, on the right is the innovation / transformation approach.
The nested variant of the SenseCanvas is useful for situations where it is useful to work with two system levels. For example, a business unit within a large company and that company in its sector.