by Dana Freker Doody VP Communications and Public Relations
Is your frame too small? Consider the borders placed around your event that may no longer serve your stakeholders. Art lovers, imagine a frame so small you see only Mona Lisa’s eyes but not her smile. She would no longer be hanging in the Louvre. Been on Facebook lately? That wide cover photo frame with minimal height that forces you to choose which segment of your photo to display is so annoying.
Your attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, press, members — and perhaps more importantly your non-attendees and non-exhibitors—may feel the same about your event. It’s just in the convention center, lame! It’s framed up by member business meetings and cliquey parties, frustrating!
“By shifting our frame we unlock a wealth of fresh ideas,” writes Tina Seelig in her book Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World. “The more radically we shift the frame, the more unique the ideas we generate. Reframing is thus a powerful tool for identifying opportunities.”
If you are looking for fresh ideas, shift the frame around your event, exhibit, meeting, tradeshow (maybe even your relationships, your life?) with these steps inspired by a recent talk from Seelig, who is Professor of the Practice in the Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University and a big part of the University’s d.school.
- Break the Frame by Asking Why. This is where a Framestorm® is different from a brainstorm, which poses solutions. In a Framestorm®, you can continually ask “Why?,” peeling back layers of the proverbial onion to get to the center of the problem, not the solution. Why do we have onsite registration desks? Because people need to pick up badges. Why do they need to pick them up? Because they need to be identified onsite. Why do they have to be identified with a badge onsite? You see how it goes. Framestormed questions rather than Brainstormed answers help people get past their own expert trigger, that thing that makes you think “that would never work” before you even explore whether it would. It puts the focus on what people don’t know, resulting in more unique ideas and opportunities.
- Change the Frame by being Empathetic. Walking in other people’s shoes, particularly those at your event who differ from your own self in gender, intelligence level, length of experience, physical ability and world view. That leads to a Framestorm® of questions about how people in other demographic and psychographic groups would experience the activations you are compiling into this experience. To this end, also consider how introverts participate in a Framestorming with post-it notes or an online gathering tool rather than big shout-it-out meetings.
- Rebuild the Frame One Word at a Time. Framestorm® around words important to your organization, whether they be shared values, advocacy positions or event components. Framestorm® questions everyone has about that word to find the problematic opportunity, then you get to go brainstorm possible solutions. Let’s say one of your organization’s values is Integrity. A Framestorm® might list How do our members/employees feel about Integrity? What does Integrity mean? Why is Integrity listed as a value? How does Integrity shared at our events? Could talking about Integrity more at Events increase the actual Integrity of people? Do others understand how important Integrity is to us? Again, you get the idea.
Once you’ve Framestormed, yes you may need to Brainstorm some solutions, but often re-framing questions provide their own answers. If you do push your team to Brainstorm, note that Seelig makes students come up with 100 possible solutions to a problem. Yes, one hundred! The magic, she says, happens in the higher numbers as people really start to push themselves into a more imaginative flow.