When anticipating or engaging with a situation, we sometimes turn it into a problem. Then, we immediately start searching for a solution. Many situations are not problems to be solved, just the ongoing tensions of life to manage. Just recategorizing a ‘problem’ back to a situation can make it disappear. It’s accepting an aspect of life. Other times, there really is a solvable problem. And the solution is inherent in the way you formed the problem.
When you form a problem, you find a category or metaphor or some other way to arrange the variables into a configuration so you can then solve (dissolve) it. For example. In corporate leadership situations, the adoption of a military metaphor might lead to a command and control or oppositional frame, chess might lead to strategy on a board of opposition where pieces are taken and turf is ignored while the game of GO, focused on taking and holding territory provides a different schema to organize the variables of a situation into a narrative with an implied logic.
Notice how a normal situation becomes dramatic, which parts have been blown out of proportion with the use of a metaphor or analogy to a virus, evil, or some major threat that this COULD represent (and doesn’t really). The menacing shadow projected on the mindscreen. The media use these arguments all the time to keep our eyeballs focused on screens for ad dollars. An oft-used metaphor – that is also a logical fallacy – is the slippery slope metaphor. Adjustments and blends in program are turned into high-speed toboggan dives to dystopia.
The problem doesn’t arrive in that configuration, the variables have been thrust into that mold. Some of the best examples of innovation are rethinking the assumptions that formed the ‘problem’ in the first place. Which is why reforming the problem can lead to new solutions and not doing this can lead to frustration and the idea something is unsolvable or unresolvable.
Reframing is a form of rethinking and re-forming – especially when you create a library of possible metaphors for how we think about this first. Then you control the human predilection to lower anxiety by creating certainty even when it’s less robust than other alternatives.
Excerpted from Upcoming Book