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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

The importance of “framing” Part 2 - How good is your frame?

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

Management, project, leadership
It is tough to convince people they have a bad frame!

“One person's craziness is another person's reality.” Tim Burton

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be.” George Carlin

Framing is the process of using your internal preferences and biases to filter objective reality, and then presenting what you now believe to be objective reality to others.

How many of you are on social media? Aren’t you amazed at how some of your colleagues and friends react to the news of the day? I am personally shocked at how people who I thought I knew well have diametrically opposed views on topics of the day. This isn’t limited to social media. How many times have you been addressing an issue at work and found yourself with a completely different perspective than those around you?

The probable answer is framing. They are applying their personal preferences and biases to the facts as presented and believe they see objective reality. It just happens to be different than yours! Note that I say “probable”. You always have to be open to the possibility of bad motives or raw incompetence. There are people who know what the “right” thing to do is, but for personal reasons choose a different path. And we all know there is no shortage of incompetence! But remember, the incompetent don’t generally see themselves that way.

So how is your personal frame? It is important that you know because you are looking at what you believe to be objective reality, and you are using your belief to make life altering decisions!

Here is the test.

Does your frame prove useful in predicting what will happened in the future? This is not as easy to determine as you might think as we are all heroes in our personal story! We know we are right. In assessing our ability to predict, we often rationalize the prediction when we get it wrong.

There is an old saying: If everyone who said they “broke even” in Las Vegas actually did, then there wouldn’t be large casinos.

You need to test your frame. Pick an issue where there can be no ambiguous outcome. Look at the facts and the history, then make a prediction. If you are wildly off, then your frame may be bad. Look at the prediction and why you made it. Do you see it? Then pick another issue and try it again. Eventually your frame will align (as much as possible) with “reality” and you will make better predictions.

And the ability to accurately predict things is a huge advantage.

Next, I’ll explore situations where key people got the frame wrong.


I have been blessed with an excellent ability to frame issues properly. I can usually look at complex systems and predict the best path forward to a logical solution. I am also able to look at choices made using the wrong frame and see the logical sad ending. But that is only an advantage when you are the one able to make the decision! I believe it is my responsibility to provide candid and accurate feedback to my leadership team, so I do. Sometimes it is followed, sometimes it is isn’t. But that is what being an adult is like! In a later post I’ll discuss some examples where having a good frame actually worked against me.


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