Collective Sensemaking

Collective Sensemaking is a conversational event where people intentionally come together for the purpose of using their varied perspectives and cognitive abilities to make sense of an issue or problem they are mutually facing.

Coach Managers to Engage Workers

"At our organization we all agreed that working with Nancy was one of the best investments we had ever made. During the two days that she spent with us we became aware of and got to practice new ways of thinking and meeting together, not only within our company but with outside customers and stakeholders. New and more effective ways of using our combined knowledge have become incorporated in our daily work, opening up new possibilities for engagement.”- Greg E. Simmons, President and CEO, MetaStar, Inc.,

In our consulting work we encounter many managers who express a strong desire to more actively engage their employees in problem solving, but have found that when they try, they get little response – or worse yet, an argument erupts. These managers have the will but not the way! 

Common Knowledge Associates are masters at the art of conversation.  We work with managers to:

  • Identify which  issues  can and should be addressed by collective sensemaking and which issues are more effectively resolved by experts
  • Frame the issue so it is as open as possible to innovative thinking
  • Structure the conversation for collective sensemaking

Our experience shows us that effective interaction is a result, not just of skill, but of changing the conditions under which workers interact. We apply eight proven principles of interaction that make the difference between engaging workers and communicating to them.   

If in your organization, you have found that subordinates often comply rather than take the initiative, hold private conversations rather than bring issues out in the open, and blame managers above them rather than accepting responsibility, Common Knowledge Associates can provide coaching to help you reach your goal of creating a culture of engagement.

Our coaching process is to: 1) have a discussion with the manager about his/her goals, 2) observe the manager in action with a group, 3) demonstrate an alternative structure working with the manager’s group, 4) jointly conduct one or more meetings with the manager, and when the process has been internalized, 5) observe the manager conducting an interaction using an interactive structure.

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What Clients Say

"Nancy provides strategic insights to ConocoPhillips. Her ideas spawned our knowledge sharing program (still flourishing today). She was instrumental in getting our execs onboard: a company that connects and operates like a global company would drive business value..."

Dan Ranta
Director, Knowledge Sharing, ConocoPhillips

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"I am impressed by Nancy’s work on knowledge transfer and sensemaking. Her recent work on collective sense making, harnessing collective wisdom to handle organizational complexity, is ground breaking and fascinating..."

Eric Tsui, Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and
VP Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society

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“I know that Nancy understands better than anyone the difference between mere talking and real communication. She is expert at helping groups of people speak listen authentically and intelligently as an important step toward shared understanding, effective problem solving, and innovative thinking..."

Don Cohen
Managing Editor, NASA ASK Magazine

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"HEMA Academie is the largest online academy in the Netherlands, we made the course "Common Knowledge Organizational Learning" because of an interview with Nancy. She is gifted with a special kind of energy and has the power to analyze complex problems as an enthusiastic team player..."

Drs. Helma van den Berg,
Head of production, HEMA Academie

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"Working with Nancy, I've seen first-hand the power of collective sensemaking. Bringing analytic tools to bear provided new insights into interdependent activities, overall system functioning, and leverage points. Collective sensemaking helps teams work smarter."

Mike Silver
SVP of Corporate Operations, HealthInsight

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"Nancy pulled off a great feat at the US Army KM conference. She got the whole room talking, all 200 of them! It broke the mold of presentation after presentation. The feedback was overwhelmingly, "Let's do more of this at the next conference."

COL Charles Burnett
Deputy Director, Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, KS

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"Her approach to collective sensemaking drives how we teach knowledge management, facilitate communities of practice, and coach highly effective teams of leaders. There is no better way to create competitive advantage in the 21st Century knowledge environment."

Mike Hower
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Knowledge Solutions, Inc.

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Recent Client Successes

The US Army KM conference had a very traditional format, three or four speakers in a row, with a few minutes of Q&A then on to the next speaker. Working with the conference design committee, we introduced interaction opportunities spread throughout the conference that made a huge difference for participants...
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Ecopetrol, the largest company in Colombia, held a Technological Environment Forum to build a knowledge management strategy for the company through the work of more than 100 leaders. The Forum contacted Nancy and asked her to come to help them understand effective knowledge management strategy...
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Huawei had twice attempted to implement KM without having achieved the results that had hoped for. When Huawei contacted Nancy, they knew they wanted to focus on the human side of KM, drawing on what people were learning through their on-the-job experience and how to spread that knowledge...
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The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is a leading innovator in health and health care improvement worldwide. I have had the pleasure of consulting to IHI, particularly in the area of “spread” for over 10 years. But until recently IHI has not had a knowledge management program or staff...
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We were able to help save the knowledge developed in the canceled NASA Constellation project. Working with NASA’s Dave Lengyel, we brought together engineers from all 10 NASA centers to develop a knowledge capture strategy...
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