How we see, or frame, problems largely determines the solutions we find. To solve difficult or longstanding problems, therefore, framing and re-framing them becomes especially important. By shifting our mindset around problems, we might see new possibilities for solutions. And as a result, we might solve those problems more successfully, more creatively, and more helpfully.
In this post, we introduce five articles about problem-solving and problem-framing. The authors offer a variety of perspectives, insights, examples, and advice about why framing is so important, how we can change our frames, and what results successful re-framing can bring.
Author Art Markman identifies human memory as the reason problem-framing so strongly influences problem-solving. He writes, “Human memory is set up in a way that encountering a piece of information serves as a cue to retrieve other related things…. In order to generate a variety of possible solutions to a problem, then, the problem solver (or group) can change the description of the problem in ways that lead new information to be drawn from memory.” For Markman, creativity comes not from thinking outside the box, but from finding more descriptions of the box and “seeing what that causes us to remember.”
This article relates the story of one leader, shipping magnate Malcom McLean, who revolutionized his industry by thinking differently. This specific case study helpfully paints a picture of how attitude shapes our approach to problems. Gladwell said, “We talk about the importance of technology and knowledge and resources…but we don’t talk about frame of mind—attitude.” Yet having the right attitude is a critical characteristic of change leaders.
One of our Arbinger consultants calls this article “foundational” and says everyone should read it. The authors write that to succeed, organizations should not focus on what they offer their customers. Instead, “What they really need to home in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish.” This is the “job to be done.” This article provides lots of specific examples of people who really learned their customers’ jobs to be done. They then adjusted their businesses to do those jobs well. As a result, they saw great success in terms of business performance and customer satisfaction.
At the beginning of this article, author Brian Quinn observes, “Over time, we can forget the only reason industries exist: to serve a constellation of customer and user needs.” He continues, “And when industries start taking those needs as givens, it opens the door to their demise—because they will likely miss or ignore vital shifts in customer needs and behaviors that others have found new ways to serve.” He then offers practical, grounded, experience-based advice around how to think differently in three areas: industry, company, and self.
An outward mindset is a way of seeing—a frame. Shifting to an outward mindset, therefore, can help us see our problems in completely new ways. Framing a problem through an Arbinger lens involves two steps. First, focus on impact. Second, consider your own contribution to the problem.
We hope this compilation provided some new insights and practical tips. Please let us know if you’d like to see more posts like this one.