Is this the right place?

Let’s find out.

My name is Alan Arnett. I’m the Thinking Partner and Coach you need when you want to make new sense of things. When something has changed. Or something needs to change. Business, technology, work, people. Even yourself. Life is busy, and learning how to refocus is becoming an essential skill.

Sensemaking is something we do all the time. We are wired to make sense of things fast, so we can act quickly. With experience we get very good. So long as the situations we meet match the patterns in our experience, those fast assessments are perfect.

The problems start when things change, and the situation doesn’t quite match what we know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new job, a new strategy, a new client demand, a pandemic, a new technology – anything at all. What’s at issue is not the thing itself, but whether we can get past our patterns to what’s actually going on, to explore new information, see better options and make better choices. What we do most often is keep trying what we know in different ways, and wonder why we aren’t making an impact.

So, the upside of using patterns is speed and effectiveness. The flipside is it takes effort and practice to learn to notice when a pattern is getting in the way, release your grip on it, and explore alternatives. It’s useful if you can get help from someone whose been practising for a long time, who knows what it takes, and has lots of short cuts.

You may have a specific situation you want more insight into, or you may want to develop your skills at making sense of lots of things. In a world full of noise and complexity, getting better at sensemaking provides more clarity, more choice, and more impact.

Essentially you are trying to make sense of three things in any situation: the challenge itself, the people involved, and your own perceptions. We do get taught elements of each of them, but rarely how they interact, and even more rarely with practical tools and tips for what to do in real time.

Get in touch to find out more

The territory

I trained originally as an engineer – at heart I’m a designer and problem solver.  Pretty early in my career I realised I was less interested in the technology, and more curious about how people worked.  For over 30 years now I’ve applied an designer’s curiosity to how we make choices and decisions, and how we connect with the work, each other and ourselves.

My journey so far has included technology, consulting, innovation, performance, leadership, change, creativity, teams, conversations, coaching, somatics. I explore a lot.

The puzzle that started me on the journey was this.  How do you handle the ‘triangular’ nature of change and problem solving i.e. creating and evolving solutions, handling the different perspectives of the people involved, and handling our own filters and reactions to what’s needed. We like to believe it’s the quality of an idea – often our idea – that will convince everyone to agree.

After all this time, I know that’s not true, but I now have some other ways in.  And because I’m practical, I want things I can remember and use in the pressure of the day to day.  So, the territory of making new sense of things has three components: questions, conversations and breathing.

OK, so they are simplifications, but only slightly.  It turns out the best way to have more impact is to pay attention to things you already do, and tweak them slightly.

Asking thoughtful questions is the best way to break patterns and make better choices.  The fundamental questions for sensemaking are introduced in this short talk I gave in 2019.

Conversations matter because, whether we are turning things over in our own head, or talking with others, we need to explore different perspectives.  But more often our patterns and differences get in the way.  There’s an art to productive conversations.

And finally breathing.  I expect you to do it for a long, long time, but in this sense it’s a practical shorthand for learning to manage the very real physical and emotional reactions that happen when things don’t make sense, and stress kicks in.  You’ll see in the video I was very slightly hyper myself that day – very excited, slightly nervous, lots of adrenaline.

All three things – using questions well, conversations with people who see things differently, managing our reactions and making progress – are essential to navigating the complexity of the world we are creating, and getting creative about making new sense of it.  It takes practice, but it can also be fun.  Ask me how.

Contact

The skills and tools I use, and can teach you, have been honed in a wide variety of sectors and challenges. To get specific, they have worked in post-merger integration, strategic change projects, technology projects, startups, culture change, performance improvement, restructuring, product and service innovation, new teams, new roles, new organisations, developing leaders. And reenergising and refocusing yourself too.

It starts with a conversation. Contact me to ask about:

  • Informal chats to discuss the art and craft of practical sensemaking
  • Coaching packages to help you with current or upcoming challenges

  • Flexible ‘on call’ packages where you can ask me for ad-hoc help to think something through as and when you need it
  • Tailored interventions to accelerate the impact of key projects or teams
  • Events, workshops or talks

You can connect with me using the links to Twitter or LinkedIn below, or email me using alan at this web domain.

” We each create our world by what we choose to notice,
creating a world of distinction that makes sense to us. ”
Margaret J. Wheatley

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