"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Although 'reframing' may have its application origins in neuro-linguistics programming or NLP, it is actually just a simple process of changing the context or representation of a problem or issue at hand.

In reality, it is "shifting the meaning of" or "changing the way we think about" the problem or issue at hand.

That is to say, the meaning of anything is found essentially in the mental frame within which we view it.

According to NLP experts, when we perceive something as a problem, that's the message we send to our brain.

Then, the brain produces states in our body that make it a reality.

When we change our frame of reference by looking at the same problem from a different viewpoint, we can change our response to it.

More precisely, we can change our perception &/or representation about anything – object, event or process, situation, circumstance, people, idea – by according it a different meaning, & thus, allowing us to take a different approach & giving us new possibilities for the actions that we might take & the responses we might execute.

This is what 'reframing' is all about.

For a better understanding, I like to point out that 'reframing' is about changing or shifting perception.

However, since I am not an NLP junkie, I will approach 'reframing' from a slightly different perspective.

I want to use 'reframing' as a strategy for problem solving & opportunity discovery.

Over the years, I have learned more than a dozen possible ways – remember, I rode on the shoulders of giants before me - to reframe a problem or challenge, & would like to share them with readers:

1) Personality Frame:

- Just imagine that you are the problem i.e. adopt the personality, & explore how you feel & act exactly like the problem;

- In the proprietary Synectics process, it's called the 'personal analogy' approach;

2) Opposite Frame:

- Look at contrasting possibilities of the problem;

- Our mind tend to look at only "similarities", & often "contrasts" can add another dimension to our viewpoint;

3) Flex Frame:

- Change the attributes of the problem to see how you can flex it at will, say with the help of SCAMPER;

- Explore the problem by shifting from pessimistic to optimistic, (or from "hell scenario" to "heaven scenario", so to speak) & then back to neutral, standpoints;

- Push the "foreground" of what you can see into the "background", & then bring the "background" immediately into the "foreground" - hidden possibilities often lurk in the "background";

4) Future Frame:

- Play with futuristic scenarios, say 5, 10, 20 years down the road, to see how the problem can be addressed, especially when you can own unlimited power, money, time, & resources;

- Your futuristic scenarios can take the form of global, regional, industry, market, product, organisational or personal levels;

5) Failure Frame:

- Approach the problem from the standpoint of “failing forward faster” [award-winning innovator Dr Jack Matson calls it "intelligent fast failure"], by viewing the potential consequences as "opportunities";

- Our mind tend to look at "success" only, whereas looking at "failure" brings many possibilities to the problem, often not recognised from looking the other way;

6) Fun Frame:

- Approach the problem from the standpoint of a curious child, or a circus clown, with joy of play & sense of wonder at your disposal;

- Just think of what Dr Seuss would do!;

7) Friends Frame:

- Get as many viewpoints as possible about the problem from your friends, especially those who aren't afraid to be honest with you, or even family members or colleagues; [do you have friends like those characters in the 'Friends' & 'Seinfeld' sitcoms?]

- This approach will certainly help to remove some of your own blind spots;

8) Fame Frame:

- Imagine you are Einstein or Edison or Tesla, & explore how your new self would solve the problem;

- You can also include celebrities &/or renowned thought leaders like Peter Drucker or even MM Lee Kuan Yew;

9) Fiction Frame:

- Imagine your are Sherlock Holmes or Dick Tracy or Peter Columbo, & then explore how they would tackle the problem;

- Try MacGyver or Jason Bourne;

10) Fantasy Frame:

- Go to the extremes, or out of this world, into 'Fantasyland', or to "where no man has gone before", to explore the problem;

- Just imagine how 'Alien' &/or 'Predator' or the two outerspace creatures in combination would tackle the problem & come up with a solution;

11) Flip-side Frame:

- Look at the upside & the downside or reverse side of the problem;

12) Whole-Brain Frame:

- Explore the problem by walking with the 'rational bottom-line', 'conservative procedural', 'emotional people-oriented', & 'intuitive big-picture', viewpoints;

- When looking at a problem situation, learn to expand your field of vision, from "focal" to "wide angle" view, to get that "soft focus", so as to allow more information to flow into your senses, especially the sense of sight [business innovation strategist Wayne Burkan calls it "splatter vision", a technique now practised by FBI/US Secret Service agents to spot potential risks in one broad sweep!]

13) Five Senses Frame:

- Explore the problem using all the five physical senses, e.g. seeing, listening, smelling, tasting & touching;

As you can see from the many resultant possibilities, 'reframing' actually enhances one's fluidity of perception, which, at least from my personal & professional experiences, is very critical to the onset of the creative &/or problem solving process.

I like to end this post with an apt quote from French novelist Marcel Proust (1871-1922):

"The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes."

[This post has been extracted & adapted from the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.]

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