Oct
18

Imagining a New Frame

What do you picture when you see leaders of the Federal Reserve Bank coming together for a meeting? Could your frame be wrong — or at least need to be adjusted? What about the frame through which you define yourself or view the possibilities in your own life?

I was back giving a creativity session to nearly 100 leaders of the Federal Reserve System last month, as they took part in a conference called Thrive, intended to help them become adaptive, creative, right-brain thinkers. You read that right. There are indeed hearts and pulses and thoughtfulness in residence at the Fed, and their colorful and inventive conference included presentations from several provocateurs including Benjamin Zander, the charismatic and world-renowned conductor, whose book, The Art of Possibility, has become a creativity classic over the past decade.
Zander encourages a shift of frame toward new possibilities (See a recent interview here, and more extensive TED talk here) and sees the financial crisis as an opportunity for making the world better. “I believe the next 30 years are going to be THE most exciting 30 years in human history,” he recently remarked, with enthusiasm we rarely hear these days.
As he explained in his book, “Revolutionary shifts in the operational structures of our world seem to call for new definitions of who we are and what we are here for.” He uses the metaphor of music in his talks to encourage change and better leadership. “Art, after all,” he writes, “is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, flight paths to the eternal.” It is this rearranging that is a key lever for creativity, part of the flexibility competency of creativity I’ve written about previously.

I woke up this morning reading his book, thinking about this line, “The frames our minds create define — and confine — what we perceive to be possible,” as I headed toward the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror. My hair on top of my head was arranged, rearranged, in a kind of propeller shape I had never seen before (I swear I did not touch my head before I took the picture, below). I took out my iphone for a picture but felt unsatisfied by the shot I took. For all its great features, the iphone’s camera has always been a limitation to me, unable to zoom, so I could never have control over the size of the shot I was taking. Indeed, I often felt limited by the frame.

In frustration, I blindly poked the camera button as I held it out in front of me, attempting another shot. I turned the phone to look at the picture I had taken, and, voila, I suddenly saw something else on the viewfinder I had never seen before — an activated horizontal zoom feature! I’d had the phone for two years and just assumed there was no zoom, when in fact there was the whole time. My frame of frustration was my reality, and I never considered the possibility that it could be different on my dated version of the phone.

Zander’s contention is that most of us wake up in the morning “with the unseen assumption that life is about struggle to survive and get ahead in a world of limited resources.” He argues that we can invent a new framework of meaning, a “universe of possibility” instead where “you set the context and let life unfold.” Hmm.

Want more from Adam? Check out his Innovation on my Mind blog.
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