A reading club with a view to the future

038 Christian Madsbjerg: Sensemaking

Humans need the humanities to make sense of the world in the age of big data and algorithms.

Christian Madsbjerg: Sensemaking


The book argues that the humanities have been largely ignored in the age of big data, which has led to a lack of understanding and empathy in business and society. Sensemaking is the solution to this problem, using the tools of the humanities to help individuals and organizations make sense of the world around them.


Title: Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm

Author: Christian Madsbjerg

Publishing year: 2017

Publisher: Hachette Book Group

Length in hours: 7 hours and 18 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Big data is not enough. In order to truly understand and connect with people, we need the tools of the humanities.
  2. Sensemaking is the process of creating meaning out of the data we collect.
  3. The humanities offer valuable insights into the complexities of human behavior that cannot be captured by data alone.
  4. A sensemaking approach can help businesses build better relationships with their customers and create more effective products and services.
  5. Sensemaking requires empathy and an openness to new perspectives, which can be fostered through interdisciplinary collaboration.
Christian Madsbjerg: Sensemaking

5 funny quotes

  1. "Data is like garbage. You'd better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it."
  2. "The best thing about big data is that it gives you more information. The worst thing about big data is that it gives you more information."
  3. "The humanities are not just a luxury. They are a necessity for making sense of the world."
  4. "If data were all we needed, then computers would have already taken over the world."
  5. "Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it too."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Big data can give us insight into what people are doing, but it can't tell us why."
  2. "To make sense of the world, we need the full range of human faculties, including the humanities."
  3. "Data can be an asset, but only if we know how to use it to create value for people."
  4. "Empathy is not a soft skill. It is the key to understanding the needs and desires of others."
  5. "To be successful in the age of big data, we need to cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around us."

5 dilemmas

  1. How can we balance the need for data-driven decision making with the need for empathy and understanding?
  2. How can we make sense of the complexities of human behavior in an age of big data?
  3. How can we use interdisciplinary collaboration to create more effective solutions to complex problems?
  4. How can we cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity in our approach to sensemaking?
  5. How can we use sensemaking to create more meaningful connections with the people?

5 examples

  1. How Airbnb used sensemaking to create a more personalized experience for its users.
  2. How the Metropolitan Museum of Art used empathy to improve the visitor experience.
  3. How Netflix uses data to create more effective recommendations for its users.
  4. How Google's Project Oxygen used interdisciplinary collaboration to improve its management practices.
  5. How the Sensemaking Institute helps organizations use the tools of the humanities to better understand their customers and stakeholders.

Referenced books

  1. "The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge" by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann
  2. "The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action" by Donald A. Schön
  3. "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed" by James C. Scott

Share a quote

"Data is like garbage. You'd better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it."

Christian Madsbjerg: Sensemaking
Become a NextBook Insider

Join our community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.