Cisco: Engaging Challenges through Sensemaking
How do you initiate a mindset shift among an organization’s leaders? How do you expose leaders to a new way of seeing the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world so that they navigate and respond accordingly? What tools and behaviors – if made a habit – can ingrain this mindset shift in a leader?
Duke CE worked with a group of Cisco’s high potential future leaders to address these questions. Key to the process was sensemaking: using the tools of social science to find underlying meaning in the lives of customers. Duke CE provided different sensemaking experiences for the learners to engage them deeply in the content and challenges facing the organization. For example, participants were spread across different neighborhoods in Miami to study developments in the local infrastructure. Participants were engaged first-hand in fieldwork, pattern recognition and insight generation. Essentially, they had to reframe their conventional approach to business problems from the outset. After the experience, facilitators helped the participants recognize patterns in the data they had uncovered and turn them into meaningful insights. After the Miami experience, participants used the same sensemaking tools to understand the source of the company strategy and the context within which people work.
Leaders and managers need direct engagement and variety in learning experiences. Duke CE was proactive in formulating working teams during different sessions so that the participants would get maximum exposure to their colleagues in other parts of the business. Structured time was provided for participants to think through how they were going to apply what they learned back at work.