I have heard the term ‘reframing’ used in the past but have never really applied it to business until more recently.
I’ve recently finished reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed and realised that this naturally occurring human behaviour often doesn’t positively contribute to the way our businesses work, although it is commonly used on a more personal level. Syed’s book not only offers an intriguing insight to the benefits of failure (if you’re not up to speed on that one, find some reading material fast!) in terms of evolving products and services, but also offers a clear explanation about reframing (ie. inventing new reasons, justifications or explanations for an outcome when we are presented with evidence that challenges our own previously set beliefs) & it’s potential impact.
A fairly recent & prominent example of ‘reframing’ is the investigation into Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) led by Tony Blair during the war in Iraq. Despite having intelligence presented more than once that there was no evidence of any WMD, the official response was that Saddam Hussein must have known about the investigation & moved the weapons, hidden them somewhere else or simply destroyed them. There could be no acceptance that actually there weren’t any WMD there as what impact would that have had on Tony Blair’s reputation, any other decision he had previously made and may perhaps have exposed him as only human & capable of making an error of judgement?
In very basic terms, we sometimes reframe the truth because we don’t want it to look like we have failed. We don’t want to look like we were wrong or made an incorrect judgement, despite the evidence clearly demonstrating that we have. It is inherent in human nature to want to ensure that we are right all the time, that we are smart and we definitely don’t get ‘done over’!
However, by constantly falling in to the reframing trap are we missing vital lessons that we are being taught by failing and not seeing the opportunities for growth or change that might actually create greater success?
Imagine a business that has a strategy pathway set but cannot see, despite results & clear evidence, that it is not working & so doesn’t make changes to the strategy because of what ‘people’ (shareholders, employees, the public) might think?
Imagine a business where the Directors or Board are so sure they are right that when even if an employee offers an alternative idea, change of direction or questions the current pathway they can’t see beyond their own egos to check whether these changes might actually turn that business around?
Imagine a business that isn’t performing due to ‘the weather’, ‘competitor activities’, potential clients ‘just not wanting that product any more’? Is it everyone else’s fault other than the business itself?
Are these situations really the case? Or is it that we’re reframing the evidence & results to simply fit our plan and protect our beliefs from being wrong?
Perhaps we need to accept that things do go wrong; we do make decisions that might not work as planned, and actually there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a learning curve for many I am sure but imagine the business growth, development opportunities and impact we could really create by accepting failure and avoiding reframing just to protect our own egos.