Simon Terry

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How to Make New Sense

The Tools of New Sense

Every man is made a fool through his own wisdom – Erasmus

Humour plays with our ability to make meaning from our circumstances. The best humour involves a deliberate misdirection of meaning before dropping us into a new insight with the punchline.

The tools of humour are the same tools as leaders, change agents and entrepreneurs need to use to find and share new meaning.  At the heart of how we make and share meaning are three key tools of our sense-making:

  • Context: how we frame our understanding and what we choose to include in our thinking
  • Categories: how we group and relate ideas
  • Narratives: the inner and external stories we tell to guide our lives

Change the Context, Categories and Narrative

When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool – Sydney Smith

An adept fool, as a master of humour, can play with each of these tools.  Humour makes us fools through what we know. Great fools leveraging our settled patterns to send us in the wrong direction before showing their ability to make us laugh as we are switched away to another insight.

Change leaders need to both understand and change their own contexts, categories and narratives. This activity is at the heart of finding new insights to drive their changes and actions.

Critically, change leaders need to be able to share these new insights which requires the ability to help others to hear new narratives, shift categories and change their frames.  This is the work leaders need to do to drive change in meaning. 

Next time you need to drive change consider:

  • How can you change the context in which the new behaviours are seen and occur?
  • How can you help others make different choices to categorise the new behaviours?
  • What new story can you tell?

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