Frame Your Problems To Create Better Solutions
When you’re looking to innovate, take advantage of an opportunity, or solve a problem… one of your first steps should be to clearly define or “frame” that opportunity or problem. Your frame is how you narrow and pinpoint what you choose to solve. Better framing leads to better solutions.
Think of it like a picture frame, it has in the center what you want to feature.
This old, wooden tugboat needs a lot of work. Among other things… an engine, new windows, paint… However, the first priority is to fix the huge hole in the hull. That’s our frame.
It doesn’t mean things outside the frame won’t be addressed, however, that big hole is the priority and our current area of focus.
But, let’s be honest. Determining the right focus isn’t always as clear as the hole in this tumbledown tug.
So, how can we really know what the frame should be?
One way to determine the right frame it to keep shifting perspectives. Take a look at the situation using different frame types, and test until you’ve found the right focus area.
You see movie directors doing this, forming a box with their thumb and index – framing to see how the scene will look on the screen… They keep shifting the perspective until they find what they want in scene.
We do the same thing with problem solving. However, instead of shifting the position of our hands, we shift: time, people, risk, resources, and our overall perspective.
Time shift – how would this look from the future?
- It’s x months from now, this decision worked well. What would we have accomplished?
- How would we have framed this x weeks ago?
People shift – see it from someone else’s point of view.
- How would our employees frame this?
- How would a client define the problem?
Risk shift – conservative to aggressive
- If we were unwilling to take a risk how would we define the problem?
- If we were a bunch of river boat gamblers, what would we say about this opportunity?
Resource shift – none to unlimited
- If money were no object, how would we define the problem?
- If we had to figure this out on a shoestring, how would we frame this?
Perspective shift – Brick, Wall, or Cathedral? Test whether we’re looking at this decision from the right perspective.
- Brick – should this decision only affect small, limited-focus procedural steps or changes?
- Wall – should this decision be focused on a limited part of an overall, or organizational issue?
- Cathedral – does this decision affect the organization as a whole?
Next time you or your team is faced with a challenge – even when the problem behind that challenge can seem fairly clear – try a few different frames before you settle on the final approach.
You may find different frame changes the look of the whole picture.
Sources: Kevin Hoffberg from Decision Quality shared with me these various shifts.