The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm
Sensemaking is the new book by ReD Associates’ US Director, Christian Madsbjerg, with Hachette Book Group out on March 2017.
Inspired by his work with companies like Ford and Coca-Cola, Madsbjerg's Sensemaking is a provocative stand against the "tyranny" of the algorithm and an impassioned argument that human intelligence, informed by the study of the humanities, remains essential to success.
We live in the age of algorithms. But what happens when number crunching fails to solve a company's problems? Madsbjerg argues that many of today's biggest success stories stem not from "quant" thinking but from deep, nuanced engagement with the culture, language, and history of customers. He calls this technique "sensemaking" and illustrates how business leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals can use human science tools to innovate and solve their thorniest problems.
In a time when liberal arts graduates fear for their prospects, Sensemaking is a welcome, transformative vision for success in the twenty-first century.
Reviews and mentions
“Madsbjerg argues that unless companies take pains to understand the human beings represented in their data sets, they risk losing touch with the markets they’re serving. He says the deep cultural knowledge businesses need comes not from numbers-driven market research but from a humanities-driven study of texts, languages, and people.”
—Harvard Business Review
“Madsbjerg thinks that if businesses accept pure data as the only truth, they are in danger of losing their ability to understand people. But it is by no means the author's aim to dismiss stem subjects. Through his particular method, his intention is to help companies find the right balance. The best CEOs can read a novel and a spreadsheet.”
“The argument for including at least a little of the humanities in your career-development plan shouldn't be defended only by measured voices; it needs full-throated advocates, too. In SENSEMAKING, Madsbjerg speaks with an urgency that can't be brushed aside.”
—George Anders, Forbes
“There's a cultural bias in business, tech and otherwise, against any information that can't be quantified—that is "soft," subjective, fuzzy. Rigorous analysis supposedly requires that it be kept out. Mr. Madsbjerg maintains that this in fact is the easy route, that what he does is the hard stuff. One of his associates says that this makes him feel like he has knives in his stomach. But it is where good ideas come from—and while the data it relies on may not be reducible to numbers, there is actually nothing "fuzzy" about it.”
—Frank Rose, Wall Street Journal.
“Madsbjerg’s readalike for Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (2005) and Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow (2011) makes a fascinating guide for those interested in the thinking habits of experts as wide-ranging as architect Bjarke Ingels, financier George Soros, singer Judy Garland, and poet T. S. Eliot.”
“Producing a mixture of how-to text and trenchant philosophy, Madsbjerg illustrates his formula for problem-solving with rich, captivating anecdotes.... Madsbjerg is no Luddite-he fully understands the value of data generated by algorithms-but he feels certain that one finely tuned human mind can solve problems that are beyond the grasp of emotionless computers."
“At Ford, we believe the key to creating products and experiences that truly make people’s lives better is to deeply understand our customers. Technology alone isn’t enough…In SENSEMAKING, Christian Madsbjerg explains with depth and structure how this is done.”
—Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company
“This is essential reading for anyone in the world of business and everyone with a concern for how human beings make sense of their world. Highly recommended.”
—Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy, The New School
“Madsbjerg has a bone to pick with American society’s reliance on algorithms and big data. This trend is coming, he warns, at the cost of a devaluation of human judgement…The directive to take a wide-angle view of problems is valid and the argument is strong.”
“Companies must master not just big data, but thick data—insight into culture, history, and the social structures underlying human behavior. SENSEMAKING is the road map for how this works, and it is essential reading for anyone looking to thrive in a world of digital disruption.”
—Francisco D'Souza, CEO, Cognizant
“Christian Madsbjerg’s SENSEMAKING is a powerful defense of human intelligence to solve problems. Anyone who dreams of leading a company should read it—and heed his wonderfully contrarian advice.”
—Jeffrey Fox, bestselling author of How to Become CEO and How to Become a Rainmaker
“With roots in Aristotle, SENSEMAKING calls on humanists to reinterpret their contribution while showing others how they cannot do without it. It is a book of the first importance.”
—Samuel Moyn, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History, Harvard University
“The book’s strength […] lies in its deductive ability. When you rely on algorithms for everything from your commute to work to your lunch order, SENSEMAKING suggests, you aren’t just altering the way you do things. You are changing the very filter through which you view reality. You are changing your ideas of what is intelligible and meaningful.”
“[Madsbjerg’s] new book, SENSEMAKING, does not decry data, so much as it argues for a more holistic approach to gathering and interpreting it. It doesn’t argue against a STEM education so much as it champions a liberal arts one. It argues that, in a world where emotional intelligence and cultural understanding are more important than ever before, we need the humanities."
For review copy and interview request, please contact Anna Ebbesen