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Sensemaking in organizations: Taking stock and moving forward

By Sally Maitlis and Marlys Christianson


Sensemaking is the process through which people work to understand issues or events that are novel, ambiguous, confusing, or in some other way violate expectations. As an activity central to organizing, sensemaking has been the subject of considerable research which has intensified over the last decade. We begin this review with a historical overview of the field, and develop a definition of sensemaking rooted in recurrent themes from the literature. We then review and integrate existing theory and research, focusing on two key bodies of work. The first explores how sensemaking is accomplished, unpacking the sensemaking process by examining how events become triggers for sensemaking, how intersubjective meaning is created, and the role of action in sensemaking. The second body considers how sensemaking enables the accomplishment of other key organizational processes, such organizational change, learning, and creativity and innovation. The final part of the chapter draws on areas of difference and debate highlighted throughout the review to discuss the implications of key tensions in the sensemaking literature, and identifies important theoretical and methodological opportunities for the field

Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1080/19416520.2014.873177
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