Great quote from Brian Arthur on sensemaking

Posted by  Andrew Rixon —October 16, 2005
Filed in Culture, Leadership Posts

This has got to be one of the best quotes I’ve seen regarding sensemaking, from an article of Brian Arthur’s in the Harvard Business Review.

Imagine you are milling about in a large casino with the top figures in the high-tech-the Gates, Gerstners, and Groves of their industries. Over at one table, a game is starting called Multimedia. Over at another is a game called Web Services. In the corner is Electronic Banking. There are many such tables. You sit at one.

“How much to play?” you ask.
“Three billion,” the croupier replies.
“Who’ll be playing?” you ask.
“We won’t know until they show up,” he replies.
“What are the rules?”
“Those will emerge as the game unfolds”, says the croupier.
“What are my odds of winning?” you wonder
“We can’t say,” responds the house. “Do you still want to play?”

Arthur argues that, in this type of environment, sensemaking differentiates great leaders from average leaders. Great leaders are identified by “their ability to perceive the nature of the game and the rules by which it is played as they are playing it”. In other words, the act of sensemaking is discovering the new terrain as you are inventing it. In the very process of mapping the new terrain, you are creating it.

(thanks to andersonite‘s blog)

About  Andrew Rixon

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