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What is Framing?

Framing is the way individuals, groups, and societies organize, perceive, and communicate about their reality. It influences how we perceive information and act in any given situation. Framing creates a mental filter that alters how information is retained in our minds.

Example: Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman published a study in Science titled The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice. In it, they proposed a problem to 152 participants:

Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual disease, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimate of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.

If Program B is adopted, there is a 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and 2/3 probability that no people will be saved.

In this case, 72% of the participants chose Program A, while 28% chose Program B. Most people preferred the surefire way to save 200 people rather than risk everyone’s death. What’s interesting is what happened in a second group of respondents that were given the same scenario, but with different Programs. This time:

If Program C is adopted 400 people will die.

If Program D is adopted there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die, and 2/3 probability that 600 people will die.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that Programs A and C have the same outcome – that is 200 people are saved as 400 people die. Programs B and D also have the same result – a 1/3 chance that 600 people are saved and a 2/3 chance that 600 people die. So, the participants’ results for Programs C and D were the same as Programs A and B, right? Wrong.

The results practically flip flopped. In the second sample, 22% of the participants chose Program C, while 78% chose Program D. Framing the question based on the number of lives saved, people preferred the guarantee. However, nobody liked the guarantee of 400 people dying. This study goes to show the drastic effect Framing can have in our everyday lives.

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Overcoming Framing During Innovation

Dynamic Duos is an excursion we commonly use at Ideas To Go to combat the effects of seeing through only one Frame during ideation. It is an excursion aimed at getting out of your own mind’s framework and into the perspective of someone else.

Get with a partner and pick a pair of people (your Dynamic Duo) who are commonly associated with each other. They can be real or fictional, as long as you can step into their shoes. Some of our favorites are:

  • Clark Kent & Lois Lane
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • R2-D2 & C3PO
  • Pooh & Eeyore
  • Bonnie & Clyde

Once you have selected your Dynamic Duo, choose the opportunity area you wish to explore and come up with ideas from the point of view of the Dynamic Duo. Their perception of the world is different from your own, and the ideas generated can be used as fodder to develop even more ideas. Next time you want a unique take on a concept, use the Dynamic Duos excursion to overcome Framing.

For a complete reference to the Cognitive Biases that interfere with innovation, read Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral InnovationTMApproach Drives Your Company Forward.

What Cognitive Bias Are You?

Take the eight-question quiz to uncover the Cognitive Bias most affecting your ability to innovate. Don't worry, we also provide you with ways to battle each Bias. 

Tyler Thompson

Tyler Thompson is a Marketing and Research Analyst at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.