You have heard it said that if you got two people together on a deserted island, those two could not get along. Do you think this is true? It may push it to some point, but the fact is that if there were two people stranded on a deserted island, there would be two different perspectives of (a) how they got there, (b) why they are there, (c) what's the best way to survive, and (d) what's the best way to get off of the island. Each of us possess a perspective of the world around us. We interpret information based on this perspective. The problem is that we never stop to think about whether our perspective is right or wrong. Why? Because we have been ingrained with this type of thinking since birth. It develops our personality and the way that we react to situations. As children, we developed paradigms that were affirmed through situations. We learned these through our parents, school, society, religion, and our environment. These paradigms are very powerful and hold our perceptions of received information.
Framing is simply the perspective through which we evaluate information. If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. In today's world, we are bombarded with a vast amount of information on a daily basis. Our frame of reference determines how we react to that information. Poor framing results in misaligned beliefs about a situation, therefore causing destructive behavior. As we frame information into certain categories, we develop preconceived ideas concerning outcomes. These preconceived ideas enhance our biases, which creates blocks in ideas and growth opportunities. Stephen Covey proposed that we should view the world through the lens of camera. Details that are missed with the naked eye are seen and recorded through the lens of the camera. It catches each detail without any preconceived notion of an outcome or category. It simply records the information and allows the outcome to be produced.
Frames of reference can cause three major issues in the lives of leaders.
First, it creates bias. When unchecked, the interpretation of information in a certain frame of reference causes you to reject any information that does not fit into your frame. This is evident in religion, fashion, appearance, success, and failure. Many individuals become intolerant of others because of bias, which stems from an individual's frame of reference. Accepting the framing as true, one's behavior will reinforce the bias.
Second, frames of reference create misaligned expectations. Because information is not framed within a certain category, we accept it as wrong or inaccurate. Although this sounds like bias, it goes further. Because we expect a certain outcome, we fail to execute any behavior or idea that is outside of our frame of reference. Because we do not expect a favorable outcome, we do not act accordingly. We accept that it is unfavorable and, therefore, do not provide the resources to successfully complete the task.
Third, frames are hard to see. Have you ever walked up to a door and had to touch it to see if the glass was there? Frames are the same way. They are difficult to see and you have to step back to observe them. You've heard that it is difficult to see the solution of the problem when you right in the middle. This is why you try to avoid making a decision while you are angry. Stepping back to see all sides of the problem provides a more clear perspective.
So what should you do to improve your framing?
I suggest three strategies:
#1 Conduct a frame audit. Instead of trying to view the big picture, divide it into smaller parts and begin looking at the individual components. Consider the origin of the frame and ask yourself why you believe in that particular way. What do you consider when you are approached by a particular situation?
#2 Compare your frame to others. Remember the clear glass in the door? Stand back and view your frame and ask yourself how others in the same or different environment would view it. Why do you perceive certain thoughts? How do others see this situation? Are they entertaining a different perspective? This is called a frame audit. Perform an audit and be open to changes in your framing.
#3 Appreciate newly emerging frames. We live in a changing global environment. Technology changes so rapidly that your phone, computer, or other technology is behind the technological curve by the time you learn it. Accept new frames of reference concerning your life, perceptions, business. Think about the problems that would exist if leaders in American companies failed to adapt new frames of reference when expanding to foreign countries.
The fact is that we live in a changing world. Diversity is the buzz word in today's business environment. However, to accept diversity entails changing your framing and accepting that your perspective may need broadening. What a sober thought to realize that the way you've viewed the world all of these years may have been so narrow.