To steal a phrase from Anton Chekhov, the great danger of the Age of the Algorithm is that we will know everything and understand nothing. In his new book Sensemaking, a polemic defending the need for the liberal arts in business, Christian Madsbjerg, a founder of strategic consulting company ReD Associates based in Copenhagen and New York, argues that leaders shouldn’t try to know everything. Instead, they should try to make sense of something.
Madsbjerg offers up sensemaking as the antidote to algorithmic thinking — “a Silicon Valley state of mind” that relies exclusively on data for direction. Relying on data alone is taking “a journey determined by the reductions of a GPS,” according to the author. Sensemaking is the North Star: It provides the essential context for data — the rationale for collecting it and the perspective needed to gain insight from it.
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In the excerpt below, Madsbjerg tells the story of Napa Valley’s Cathy Corison, comparing her approach to wine making with the data-driven approach of Leo McCloskey, founder of Sonoma, California-based Enologix, Inc., to illustrate the difference between traveling by the North Star and the GPS.