Sensemaking Environment

A case study and Tana template for the system that will help you in researching/exploring complex multidisciplinary problems/subjects.

Sensemaking Environment
Hey! Andrew from Collider is here

In this case study, I will show you how to build a system in Tana for exploring complex multidisciplinary problems/subjects (with a help of AI).

The system provides a general framework that you can use as a backbone for:

  • Data collection & evaluation
  • Analysis & sensemaking
  • Formalizing learnings
  • Synthesizing new knowledge

This build includes many structures/workflows that support and facilitate all these processes.

I call this type of system a Sensemaking Environment.

To illustrate how to use the system, I will take the real live case: Crisis in Higher Education in US.

It was heavily inspired by the series of podcasts by Marc Andreessen & Ben Horowitz (a16z)

I directly use some of their frameworks as a base for this build, namely:

  • 12 functions of the University
  • 15 constituents of the University (here I call them actors)

Although the build is customized for the specific case, the general approach is very scalable and can be applied/reused in many different contexts with some minor adjustments.


The system is based on the following ontology

These four entities make up the core of it:

University function

The specific role that the University plays in the domain of HigherEd / society as the whole

Actor (stakeholder)

Person/ group / organization that is capable of exerting influence within the system.


Provides relevant historical contexts for a specific factor, functions or for the whole domain


It integrates everything together. Factor analysis allows you to discover complex causal relations (factors /actors/functions) and mine insights.

Full video GUIDE



Here is the list of functions/activities that you can use this system for:

  • Data collection & evaluation
    • Collect & filter data
    • Connect data to the data source
    • Evaluate data & data source quality
    • Connect data to factors
    • Discover patterns, mine insights
  • Stakeholder analysis
    • Identify key stakeholders
    • Map and group stakeholders
    • Discover influence & power dynamics
  • Factor analysis
    • Identify key factors that influence the domain
    • Assess the impact of each factor
    • Explore interrelationships among factors
    • Discover complex causal relations (factors /actors/functions)
  • Historic analysis
    • Collect the relevant historical events
    • Filter the relevant events
    • Group events by eras & view them as a timetable
    • Explore the historical context for each factor
    • Connect events to the relevant functions

Full video HOW TO


The template


Andrew Altshuler is a researcher & educator.
He started his PKM journey 16 years ago.
Since then, he become obsessed with knowledge systems & tools for thought.
Andrew is: