The S>W>E path to Change

Sensemaking & Wayfinding culminate in the actions that connect step to story

How come people celebrate innovation & improvement, but tend to resist the process of getting there? In our quest to better ourselves…have we lost our nerve? Have we evolved ourselves to a point where we are conditioned to be afraid of uncertainty? Reluctant to embrace the feeling of NOT knowing what happens IN-BETWEEN two states?

It feels like we have lost a great HUMAN ability.

Taking risks in the face of danger… leaping before we know, explore and discover without end… is that now only reserved for kids and entrepreneurial daredevils? Embracing change as a constant in our lives and learning how to ride the waves of chaos might serve us better than reluctantly having to find the courage to accept our inevitable transformations. Luckily we have Disney to remind us to jump into the unknown! (frozen2… amazing existential bit of transformative psychology).

Once you have experienced Change over time, you realize that it happens according to specific patterns. Repetitive strings of events that, once recognised, you can prepare and prime yourself for. Our challenges lie in the speed of our current development… It does not allow us to listen to the signals that guide us through our personal and professional growth.

My contribution to the world of professional practice started with VISUAL THINKING. It evolved to VISUALISING CHANGE and has lead me to a point where I can offer people the ability to recognise and connect to PATTERNS of CHANGE.

There are 3 interconnected entry points that will get you on the path of MAKING CHANGE VISIBLE :

SENSEMAKING — Knowing & Moving from A to B, = GRIP

WAYFINDING —Building a clear & visible path, together!= CLARITY

EXPERIENCES — Crafting the moments that focuses your efforts = ACTION

Each of these practices stand on their own, but together form a path to move from thinking about change to designing the actions that realise it and giving you a way to start sharing your progress with others.

It is a happy accident that the acronym SWE, has a link with my SWEdish Love interest and mother of my 3 children…:).

Sensemaking — Moving from A to B

Looking at complex situations in a visual way just makes sense… it is a factual approach to seeing what lies on the table and how you can start to play with your options. Building towards a goal is a skill anyone can master when you apply ‘visual practices’ to guide you in asking the right questions.

By ‘drawing’ or literally building out your situation you make the abstract complexity VISIBLE and take the first steps towards uncovering your options and make them visible for others.

The program is always the same.

Ask any designer to solve a problem and they will run you through a specific process. The program they run is a sequence of actions that they have learned to apply to solve (big complex) problems.The path of moving from THINKING to DOING is what designers have learned, practiced and improved during their careers of running their design programs. The attention for ‘design as a practice’ is well founded because it can be focused to solve most ANY problem…including complex CHANGE.

But because the process as a whole can be quite daunting, it is easiest to just start at the beginning. Start making sense by pealing away all the Fluff and get to the core of a problem. This is where Design starts… with the PAIN of the USER.

Sensemaking — a factual approach to making change visible

Another name for the first part of the design process is SENSEMAKING. Breaking apart a situation into it logical bits and bytes exposes the available options. This is where good designers usually start. GRIP on the problem leads to understanding of the situation. Facilitating the process that will uncover the real problem and building a path towards solving it, is the responsibility of any designer worth investing in.

Asking the key questions that lead to a good MAP is an art in itself.

DESIGN is a capability that takes time to develop. This does not mean you have to become a designer to start solving your problems! Being aware that DESIGN means PROCESS and that it offers specific paths already gets you on your way. Being appreciative of what designers bring to the table is another…;).

To cultivate a design ‘MINDSET’ you need to be aware that people think and connect on different levels. To make the right choices that live between those levels you need to mix long term WISE perspectives with daily PRACTICAL choices, while at the same time listening to the stakes of all users, your team and company shareholders. Sound complex? NOT when you break it apart!

To DESIGN understanding is to ENGINEER a relationship with your story and all of its actors. Who is involved for what reasons and what path are they walking? How are they moving from A to B?

“It all happens In between A & B.”

Between your current situation (A) and the desired state (B), there is a cloud of opportunity & potential. This is where the first entry point of ‘Making Change Visible’ starts to show its relevance. Most of the time we get lost in optionality if we do not have a tool to focus our attention. The first part of the process of DESIGN leads to a MAP of your CONTEXT. This landscape or eco-system is the ‘first field of play’ that gives you GRIP on the situation. It show where you are starting in what context, it introduces your actors and give you a way to experience the challenges that are happening right now, in the future and in the space between the two.

When the process of making SENSE is mapped out on a timeline, it offers the opportunity to look back and forth at change through two different lenses.
A PATH typically has a two year horizon (hill), where as a JOURNEY lies in between the horizon and a long term goal. If these point on the map are not clear (where will the journey lead us? /where do we start?), people who are in the middle of a changing situation can feel completely lost.

“Making Change Visible” becomes a necessity… not a luxury.

Connect to the Core problem, Show the CONTEXT, see the opportunities & Potential.

WAYFINDING — building a shared path

You are in control of the decisions that govern the twists and turns you encounter on your path. And when you know what you want, when, with whom and most important WHY, you own a reason start believing in the path you will have to walk!

Wayfinding — a shared visual engagement experience of fiinding the path to change

Once you have made sense of the situation, Wayfinding is about Seeing and feeling the difference between your path and your journey. By building a NARRATIVE around your ‘sensible MAP’ you force yourself to simplify its nature. Enriching the context of the story with the challenging barriers and inspiring energies of the situation, empowers you to make your STORY relatable to others. Finding the focus of that story is a huge help to clear the path to achieving the end goal.

Matching your goal with that of others is where sparks will start to fly!

Engaging people with a VISUAL STORY of what you are all about is what makes them connect to YOU. It makes them part of your drama and all of its complexities and will help transport them into the middle of your dynamic, so they can relate to your reasons and motivations and feel you PAIN. WAYFINDING is all about creating the in between space for people to connect to your story. The process of finding and defining the path helps to start see, understand and focus the actions that lead to CHANGE.

Expose the PAINs, Find the GAINs, show the path and share the progress.

EXPERIENCES — Crafting Connecting Moments

I have always admired the belief of others. My own beliefs get strengthened when I help others to believe in who they are and where they are going. When we believe in something, we are strong. We get energy to go the extra mile. When we light the fire of our own beliefs, we cast a light for others to either join or follow.

Connecting High Fly, to Low Flow

By translating the movement from A to B to a tangible IMAGE and complimenting it with a story of how to get there, you create the opportunity for people to interact with your CHANGE. The relationship you cultivate with your story helps you to connect your own steps and gives you the tooling to share your forward motion with others. Don’t underestimate the power of seeing & sharing progress (like the Force). CHANGE is difficult to share when there is nothing to hold on to. That is why a VISUAL story becomes to powerful when used in the moment of sharing your path . It allows the storyteller to move back and forth over time. Showing how CHANGE has happened, what has Changed as opposed to the beginning and what will happen next. Sharing CHANGE can be designed as an event. Which means that you can think about what it will take to make the moment of sharing an memorable event, with a specific end outcome in mind.

Making your change visible has never been the end result. It is a beginning of an open continuous way of showing what you are doing, how you do it and how far along you are on your path in relation to your journey.

It sounds like the biggest cliché ever, but life is rarely about the destination. The experiences you have along the way define who you are. That is why you need to take extraordinary good care of the moments you organise in between your A and B.

Think about how you share your change with whom and when…Designing the moment could impact the way you realise your goals.


During COVID-19 we got some time to reflect. What I found was that my personal focus was making a shift. The online discussions about forced changes , governing transformations and planetary emergencies altered my perspective on how I want to contribute to the improvement of the WHOLE.

When I graduated, I started to go full time into visual thinking and all the human challenges that came along with it. I helped a lot of different people in organisations articulate & communicate their complicated and interconnected stories, with great success and lots of FUN during the process. This has been a huge part of the way I now look at the world. It affirmed my beliefs in the power of visualisation and drove a lot of my actions at the time in bringing back a balance to collaboration using the processes of both FACTS (sensemaking) and FEELINGS (wayfinding). The use of sketches in the process of finding your story has started to become an accepted part in any professional practice, which I am very proud to have helped pioneer.

On that path however, I always had the feeling that there was more to helping people than just visualising pieces of their puzzle.

One of the reasons I left my friends at JAM visual thinking , was to go out into the world and look for the GRAND VISUAL FRAMEWORK (GVF). An all in-compassing super structure that would help build & facilitate the pathways between the different layers of thinking that exist in organisations. The promise of this frame was the ability to visualise all stories that life within an organisation and connect them to ONE AIM. Completing the WHOLE puzzle!

As I am writing this I am realising that the SERVICE to understand and support the complexities of my clients, has now become my entry point A of my personal path of CHANGE. My search for this GVF always had the clients best interest at heart, which means I have been working in a position of SERVICE.

Almost a decade on in my search for this GVF I can say that I have created a monster structure. A visual interconnected super frame linking responsibilities across all levels of professional enterprise. A mental model so big that it has become almost impossible to share. I know people who have done the same and have realised that we all do not build these frames to share them. We build them to help understand ourselves.
I can see now that finding or designing the GRAND VISUAL FRAMEWORK was never the point. It was (and still is) a wonderful way to UNCOVER a new desired state. It has revealed My point B.

Visual practice is not a service it is an integral part of moving forward together.

FOLLOW and interact this developing story on medium and on mirror.
I will make the Paths and Pain points VISIBLE to demystify CHANGE and help you to figure out where to start, what steps to take and maybe even help to tweak your “change” behaviour along the way. As I have been doing for myself the last 10 years.

My story has always had this simple truth at its core:

The only thing you will ever truly own…
is your own story.

Dennis (Denace)



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Dennis Luijer (DENACE)

I Make CHANGE Visible using sketches, I help people navigate their path to CHANGE by creating stories, I design the moments that communicate that story.