Understanding the governance of wicked problems from the perspectives of sensemaking and decision-making

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


Is life about choice or is life about meaning? Sensemaking and decision-making represent rather different perspectives on different types of human activities, but the governance of wicked problems poses serious challenges for both sensemaking and decision-making. Decision-making is very much concerned with the future and the possibilities it holds, and aims to overcome uncertainty to make choices possible. In contrast, sensemaking is primarily about attaching meaning to actions and events that have already occurred. A sensemaking perspective emphasizes the continuous flow of action and interaction, in which people struggle to overcome ambiguity about the significance of our own and others' experiences and actions. Can our understanding of the governance of wicked problems be furthered by linking decision-making and sensemaking theories? In conditions of high uncertainty and ambiguity, sensemaking is decisive through shaping the meaning of decision problems, decision options and decision outcomes. At the same time, decisions are occasions for
sensemaking: through decisions, people define policy issues and identities, and they enact the wicked problem environment they later need to interpret. Developing a sensemaking perspective on decision-making about wicked problems opens up research avenues that have been understudied in public administration, policy and governance research. These include studying decisions as enactments and occasions for sensemaking, developing sensemaking-support systems, making sense of dualities in decision-making, and prospective
sensemaking for long-term decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event3rd International Conference on Public Policy - Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 28 Jun 201730 Jun 2017


Conference3rd International Conference on Public Policy
Abbreviated titleICPP

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