In the modern, corporate world, if we want to make any serious decision or measure a change project, we need to justify our workings by invariably pulling together some charts and stats from the available data, because that is verifiable and provable. However, data ‘drives’ the image in the rear-view mirror; sentiment (or evolving sensemaking) ‘drives’ the image in front of us. A rear-view mirror image confirms our past journey. What we ‘see’ in front of us provides plausible meaning and a potential plan to adjust our journey.
Given that Amazon is rightly perceived to be a leader in the use of data, it may be surprising what Jeff Bezos said a few years ago: “The thing I have noticed is that, when anecdotes and the data disagree, the anecdotes are usually right … You do need the data, but then you need to check that data with your intuition and your instincts.”
Essentially, Bezos has captured the dualism necessary to navigate the organisational journey by both checking the rear view mirror (data, by its very nature, can only reflect what has gone before, i.e. rational probability) and checking the cues and clues of the road ahead (analysis focusing on an unfolding event, i.e. intuitive plausibility).
At its core, our individual and collective sensemaking process seeks to answer “what’s the story here, and therefore, what do I do next?” – essentially the intuitive plausibility reflected by Bezos.
The process of adaptive change programmes is driven by rational or data-based assumption. However, the sentiment-based clues and cues driven by the sensemaking processes of the people experiencing the journey are normally lost, and yet it is what goes on in the background, what people do not say or what they do not even see; what is written on the wall.. and they ignore the warning signs. The human element, with all its facets, remains the black box; from bias to culture and communications.
Frustrating, but is it a surprise? How would Jeff Bezos go about capturing the intuition and instincts of the other 1.5 million people in Amazon?