Making sense of sensemaking in organization studies

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‘Sensemaking’ is an extraordinarily influential perspective with a substantial following among management and organization scholars interested in how people appropriate and enact their ‘realities’. Organization Studies has been and remains one of the principal outlets for work that seeks either to draw-on or to extend our understanding of sensemaking practices in and around organizations. The contribution of this paper is fourfold. First, we review briefly what we understand by sensemaking and some key debates which fracture the field. Second, we attend critically to eight papers published previously in Organization Studies which we discuss in terms of five broad themes: (i) how sense is made through discourse; (ii) the politics from which social forms of sensemaking emerges and the power that is inherent in it; (iii) the intertwined and recursive nature of micro-macro sensemaking processes; (iv) the strong ties which bind sensemaking and identities, and (v) the role of sensemaking processes in decision making and change. Third, while not designed to be a review of extant literature, we discuss these themes with reference to other related work notably that published in this journal. Finally, we raise for consideration a number of potentially generative topics for further empirical and theory-building research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-277
Number of pages13
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number2
Early online date3 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Sensemaking, Sensemaking Perspective, Organization studies , Process
  • Theory Building


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