Frames

Every decision starts with a frame, a way to describe the decision, that is built around a framing question, such as "Where shall we go on vacation?" The frame enables us to make a decision by narrowing down what needs to be considered. Without a frame, our brains are not capable of making decisions.

So, the frame is valuable, but it has a cost. Once we choose a frame, we focus on certain aspects of the situation and tend to ignore others. Notice how a frame based on the question "Where shall we go on vacation?" causes us to think about choices and criteria different from the framing question "What shall we do on our vacation?" The first focuses on destinations, the second activities.

Once we choose a frame, it will blind us to perspectives not related to the frame.

Usually, we choose a frame without much thought. Big mistake. Some frames lead to worse decisions than do others. Just ask Lieutenant General Arthur Purcival, who commanded the British forces in Singapore early in World War II. He framed his decision, how to defend Singapore, as "How can we best defend ourselves from a Japanese naval invasion?"

His frame was based on the bad assumption that the Japanese would not invade by land because the land approach to Singapore was covered with impenetrable jungle. In 1942, the Japanese proved his assumption wrong. They invaded by land, easily moved through the supposedly impenetrable jungle, and captured Singapore.

Bad frames lead to bad decisions. Good frames lead to good decisions. When making a decision, consider first how to frame the decision.

Contact us for more details on how to judge the quality of the frame you are using for an important business decision.


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