When Do We Frame a question?

We are at work here thinking through the starting point for strategy.  Why bother? Because if we get the starting point right, our analysis has a much higher chance of getting us somewhere. Get the starting point wrong, and we may develop great answers to the wrong question.

Our work so far has taken us to the challenge of making framework decisions. These are decisions that we need to base further activity upon. We do not want to get these wrong.

As an aside, we might think, for example, that “civilization” is a process of building on shared framework decisions.

What does a solid framework look like?

I would suggest that the best frameworks are predictive. In other words, they allow us to test their value based upon observations of future events. Scientific method is a tool that we use to make framework decisions about the nature of reality. If gravity is a force that exerts an attractive force on a mass, then if I  hump out of an airplane, I should fall to the ground. Simple enough.

But things get a bit weird when we seek to predict how humans will act. As a species, we are capable of creating our own interpretations of what is important. We are free to do so. And as a result, foundation decisions about people will always be less predictive than we might like. Perhaps this is why the advance of civilization has been so jerky – up and down.

And perhaps this is why humans, by and large, are such terrible decision makers. We are reluctant to set aside our beliefs in reality, even when we see evidence that they are wrong.  We suffer from cognitive biases.

If we wish to build strategic decision making capacity, it may not be such a bad idea to accept this as a fundamental aspect of being human. We are prone to interpret reality in ways that are consistent with our beliefs. We must live with our cognitive biases.

If so, foundation decisions that rely upon personal belief are the most suspect. Are there other types that have a stronger foundation?`Of course. If all humans are subject to the same  cognitive biases, framework decisions based upon what others believe to be true are more likely to predict how they will act. Why? Because those people will hold onto those beliefs no matter what.

So strategic framework decisions focus on identifying and using shared beliefs with in groups. If you can identify a belief, you can make a framework decision about how that belief will affect what people will do over time.

Getting started with a strategic question, then, is less about me than about seeing the beliefs that drive other people to act.


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