When I named Decisio (almost 10 years ago now!) I was casting about for a tag line that extended the "decision motif" to capture the essence of what we do. I settled on "Making Sense of the Future." My idea was (and is) that if clients are going to be able to make good decisions in complicated situations then they first had to understand that situation -- they had to "make sense" of what was happening. Then, they could use that understanding to make good decisions. The invocation of the "future" in this was intended, firstly, to suggest that comprehending the role of time is important to understand problems. Secondly, that we make decisions today in order to reap rewards in the future.
This idea of using systems modeling to "make sense" and support decision making was not and still isn't very common. There seem to be two prevailing ideas about the role of models and modeling. One common view is that they are sophisticated black box tools that consume data and produce predictions of the future. My observation is that while good models have predictive qualities the future is slippery. All models are wrong (but some are useful). Decision making based on a "forecast" mentality will not turn out well. An alternative perspective is that, since forecasting is difficult or impossible, modeling should be used for individual and organizational learning. Well, that's fine but sooner or later somebody has to make decisions!
I've recently become aware of the science and some of the research around the formal idea of "sensemaking." Gary Klein, well known in the field, describes sensemaking as "a motivated, continuous effort to understand connections (which can be among people, places, and events) in order to anticipate their trajectories and act effectively". Well, that's exactly what I help clients accomplish using systems models. In my projects the modeling activity guides an effective sensemaking process that results in high quality decisions.
Recently, I think I've been guilty of describing my work from the perspective of systems science and modeling to the detriment of the "making sense of the future" perspective. In fact, successful projects always integrate modeling with the sensemaking perspective.
I think that the intersection of systems modeling and sensemaking is not as well explored as it needs to be so I'll be blogging more about it. To read more about sensemaking in general try this wikipedia article and publications by Gary Klein and K. E. Weick.