Pitching as sense making

Forcing flow to smash out different ways of meaning-making. That’s pitching as sense-making.

Matt Kurowski
3 min readFeb 22, 2021


Image by Hans Eiskonen https://unsplash.com/@eiskonen

Pitching practice is great. Really important for getting to the heart of a problem, proposing a way forward and getting buy-in.

I have expanded on pitching as a way to quickly force my framing to ideate what I think, what I mean and what is important. Basically I’m teaching myself to be believable while at the same time getting to the *compelling heart* of the matter. Given the ambiguity of the RFP (especially when combined with the curiosity of a service designer!), there are more unknowns at this stage of the project for obvious reasons. Pitch practice helps you:

  • build empathy with the client by replaying their problem really succinctly and profoundly (create a pitch as if you are the client) then
  • quickly and profoundly describe how you will respond to their challenges by working through all the ways you might help, which helps you to arrive at the one that feels right.

Remember, it’s not science here, it’s intuition, persuasion, empathy and confident intention that helps shape a viable, desirable and feasible RFP for your potential client!

Pitching as sense-making is fast, cheap and dirty at the beginning, like all good concepts are. Be irreverent. Be wrong. But pitch, pitch, pitch!

Examples are good

Here’s an example way to work through a pitching approach for sense making. I use the same process and mentioned by Disney, Dreamworks, Elon Musk etc.:

  1. Name the enemy – name a few. Go through the 8Ps. Pick stakeholders and make them the baddie. Pick outcomes and make them the baddie. What in the current state is the big problem that, when solved, makes everything relevantly better? Sometimes a good place to start is by seeing if you can articulate a *bigger picture problem* that underlies their stated challenge. Be careful here because if you go too wild all you’ll get is eye-rolls. Stay focused on their challenge but place it in a larger context to elevate its relevance to the big picture.
  2. What happens if nothing changes? What is the end-game of the bad stuff if it continues unchecked? What numbers can you find to support it? Are those numbers focusing on the right kind of support for your argument or are they just random? Have a reason for all your support/evidence. Not all systemic issues are dire, so don’t go too apocalyptic. Highlight the environmental, social, financial, psychological, future costs as appropriate, but make sure it’s encapsulating the client’s (stated or implied) concerns first and foremost.
  3. What’s the ideal endgame – imagine if the world looked like this…! Describe the solution as a reality e.g. What if there was no plastic pollution? Imagine a world where there were no plastic islands, no plastic-poisoned fish. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Notice the solution hasn’t been described – just the “better world” part. This is because you DON’T KNOW THE SOLUTION, but you know what the solution creates!
  4. What are the challenges – in order to realise this future state, what needs to be done? Run through the 8Ps again as this can help you find the right language and levels of complexity and impact. Lay out a stakeholder map and link the obstacles to each one to help create the conditions for your proposal to respond appropriately. How you articulate the obstacles is important to build confidence in the client but also to not scare them away. Depending on your read of their maturity, you can shape little, tactical, strategic and systemic obstacles as appropriate.

So that’s it. Forcing flow to smash out different ways of meaning-making. That’s pitching as sense-making. Do it in the mirror, do it with colleagues, but DON’T wait for inspiration to strike – pitch in and make sense on the fly!



Matt Kurowski

Senior consultant and advisor for sustainable organisational innovation (SMEs); industry fellow at RMIT School of Design. https://mattkurowski.carrd.co