Prospective sensemaking: Strategy-making in a pioneering firm

I employed a longitudinal, grounded-theory approach to investigate the processes by which firms not only try to “see” the future, but seek to shape it, as well. My investigation of the strategy-making processes in a pioneering firm that is widely acknowledged to have shaped the future of its industry over five decades showed that “creative enactment” – generative, reflexive interventions by which agents attempt to structure the environment towards desired ends – was a pivotal process. The findings help to extend the traditional sensemaking perspective, which is rooted in retrospective processes, to account more fully for prospective or forward-looking activities—especially those intended not merely to anticipate, but also to influence the future. The resulting “forward-looking” sensemaking model highlights not only the importance of creative enactment, but also the significance of “creative rationality” in understanding how firms can work to influence future environments. The resulting “forward- looking” sensemaking model also complements the dominant discourse in strategic management literature, which has historically focused on “fit” and ‘adaption” processes, by emphasizing processes that create the possibility of “shaping” environments.

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Academy of Management Proceedings
Shubha Patvardhan
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