RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2021-05

RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2021-05


Accepting the Future as Unforeseeable: Sensemaking by Professionals in the Rise of Artificial Intelligence


The disruptive influence of digitalisation on professions has been actively debated. This study analyses the nature of professionals' sensemaking with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). I conducted a qualitative study with interview and archival data on a Big Four audit firm in Japan as they considered the application of AI to their core audit service in 2017–2019. The study discovers three themes in the professionals' sensemaking: monitoring environmental change, evolving future blueprints and learning through experimentation. It also shows their acceptance of the future as inherently unforeseeable and their perception of endless sensemaking as a resolution to cope with the excessive environmental complexity. In their sensemaking, institutional factors—audit standards, societal expectations and trends in other firms—played an important role in setting what is acceptable in technology use, while technological factors set what is possible. The professionals continue to explore what the unique value of humans is against machines and what stays legitimate to sustain their profession. With these findings, this article contributes to the literature of sensemaking and professions by discussing implications of this distinct and important perception mode.


Prospective sensemaking; Occupations and Professions; Qualitative research methods


Masashi GOTO
Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059