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Our interpretation of a "problem" can differ according to the way it is framed. If a "reality" is constructed, it can just as well be reconstructed.
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A Guide to Reframing
Olivier Serrat
The Frame of "Problems"
Our current situation, knowledge, life experiences, (mostly
unconscious but ingrained) assumptions, and values create
frames to describe and interpret what we hear and see every
day. By providing a view of the world and our place in it, these
frames create a "reality" that informs but also constrains the way
we think and take action, as the case may be in winlose terms.
Our interpretation of a "problem"an intricate unsettled
question, something that is difficult to understand or accept, or
even a conflictdiffers according to the way it is framed. If a
"reality" is constructed, it can just as well be reconstructed.
Changing our interpretation of a behavior, event, object, person,
or situationreconceptualizing "reality"reframes our
perception of them: the process expands the range of possible
solutions to a "problem" and enlarges our capacity for action.
The Doors of Perception
… and it is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various
points of view.George Eliot
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those
who could not hear the music.Attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the
solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper
question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the
problem in less than five minutes.Attributed to Albert Einstein
My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never
happened.Michel de Montaigne
Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on
outward circumstances.Benjamin Franklin
Uses of Reframing
In psychology, cognitive
reframing identifies and
disputes irrational or
maladaptive thoughts, this
to find more positive
alternatives for patients and
prompt beneficial changes
in mindsets. When applied
to "problems"as distinct
from their use in the arts
reframing techniques find
application elsewhere,
notably in sociology and
organizational psychology.
Organizations that compete in a
globalizing world can reframe
"problems" to find opportunity.
One way to shift perspective is to
imaginewith the greatest possible
empathya situation from another
person's perspective: how, for
example, would a child (or different
specialists) view it?
A second is to ask effective
questions, especially questions
beginning with "why?"
A third, originated by artists but
increasingly applied in the creative
industries, is to see the world with
fresh eyes.
Creative Frames of Mind
ContextWhere else could this be useful?
HumorIs there a funny side to this?
LearningWhat can we learn from this?
MeaningWhat else could this mean?
Points of ViewHow does this look to others?
Silver LiningWhat opportunities does this "problem" present?
SolutionWhat would we do if we solved this "problem"?
Integrating Frames
We've tried
that before.
It was a
We don't
have time to
do any of
OK, so we have
a good idea
about what
doesn't work.
What can we
do differently
this time? How
would others
approach it?
A complete
failure? Really?
But, what can
we learn?
Which bits did
work? Where
else might they
work? What
can we try
What can we
stop doing to
make time?
Which bits do
we have time
The Reframing Matrix
The reframing matrix
was devised by Michael
Morgan. A question (or
"problem") is laid in the
middle of a four-box
grid and examined from
four typical business
perspectives. (Naturally,
the grid can be used to
represent groups of
stakeholders, e.g.,
clients, staff, suppliers,
Program PerspectiveAre there
issues with the program (or
product or service) we are
Planning PerspectiveIs the
business (or communications
plan) appropriate?
People PerspectiveWhat do
the people involved think?
Potential PerspectiveIs the
program replicable? Can it be
scale up?
Our New Product Does Not Sell
Is the product technically
Is it attractive?
Is it well priced?
Are we approaching the right
segments of the market?
Are we using the right marketing
How could we raise sales of the
Can we distribute to new
Do clients know the product?
How do they see it?
Are they convinced it is reliable?
Why are they buying other
On 24 October 1946, a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands
Missile Range in southern New Mexico in the United States took the
first pictures of Earth from 65 miles (105 km) in outer space.
24/10/1946: Earth Reframed
Further Reading
ADB. 2008. The Reframing Matrix. Manila. Available:
ADB. 2009. The Five Whys Technique. Available:
ADB. 2009. The SCAMPER Technique. Manila. Available:
ADB. 2009. Wearing Six Thinking Hats. Available:
ADB. 2009. Asking Effective Questions. Manila. Available:
ADB. 2011. Critical Thinking. Manila. Available:
ADB. 2012. The Reframing Matrix. Manila. Available:
ADB. 2012. The Five Whys Technique. Manila. Available:
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