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The problem with "framework-ed" thinking


We think out of them to simplify and synthesise our processes. From 2 x 2 matrices to strategy maps alike, they attempt to put us into systems thinking mode. For the most part, they are useful in guiding how we approach problem solving.

Frameworks are a means to an end, not the end of itself.
2x2 Price-Perception Matrix

But therein lies the issue – the consultant / strategist enters into the problem with preconceived notions that something within that problem has to necessarily fit into one of the number of frameworks already present in his/her mind, albeit with some tweaking.

This has often been seen also in branding, marketing, advertising, you name it.

Frameworks are only useful to the extent of the framework fitting the problem and not the other way around.

When a brand consultant/strategist force-fits a problem to a framework, there will be the inevitable place of disregarding some factors surrounding a problem because the framework does not support those factors. This is an unpardonable sin of a consultant/strategist.

Given the amount of work that has been completed and decades of experience, there will be frameworks that have been created that can be used off like an off-the-shelf solution, with some tweaks. But not all situations present themselves with such coincidence. The issue comes especially when an organisation has built up knowledge over the years and processes quickly evolve to templates as strategy makes room for tried-tested-and-proven-solutions. The problem solvers abdicate their roles and let “I’ve seen this one before” dictate how things should play out next.

After getting past the stage of answering the question “What problem are we trying to solve here?”, this is where the real work begins – sorting, assimilating information and drilling down to a solution. While the temptation for a quick solution is to ask the question “Which framework do we have that solves this problem?”, ask the question “How will we be hindered if we apply this?” We understand the dangers of linear, first-order thinking. But perhaps, not enough. And we can end up falling into that trap if we are not careful with this application, especially in a VUCA world.

Design as well brand communications fall into the same ambit. Sometimes during a strategy session, we can end up trying to use tried-and-tested approaches to solve what our competitors have already broken through and are onto the next level of engagement.

Can the frameworks you use leapfrog your brand past the current? Is the approach enduring to a certain extent?


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