In problem analysis, humans identify challenges and make sense of them based on prior experience. In ideation processes, the resulting thinking habits and cognitive biases naturally limit. creativity. To overcome such biases, it is often helpful to look at a problem from different perspectives and with others (Carrier & Steward, n.a.).
Description of the reframing matrix method
What is this technique about
The Reframing Matrix technique helps to overcome cognitive biases in ideation and problem analysis by enabling the students to look at a problem from other than their usual perspective. By exploring the problem with a different perspective allows for understanding it better in its complexity and to generate more creative solutions.
Where does it come from
Perspective taking is a central concept in the “Sociology of Knowledge” developed by George Herbert MEAD (1968). Mead finds that the perspective of an individual is limited by her or his knowledge, and that perspective taking is a process of putting oneself in the position of others to enable knowledge development. This is known as central to creativity processes (Wolf & Troxler, 2008). The Reframing Matrix technique was translated to the business environment by Michael Morgan (1993). In his book “Creating Workforce Innovation.” (Mindtools, n.a.)
For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)
This technique can be used to demonstrate that different people with different experiences will likely approach problems in different ways, or that different future product stakeholders will potentially have different needs that should be considered when developing a solution. The matrix helps students to put themselves into the minds of others, to imagine the ways that they would face the problem, and to explore the possible solutions that they might suggest.
How to use it
To use the reframing method is quite simple. The facilitator should prepare a 2×2 matrix with the problem in the middle. The four empty boxes of the matrix are for four different perspectives to analyze the problem – these can be the four Ps (product, planning, potential and people) for analyzing product-related challenges, the PPPC perspectives (people, processes, platform, and culture) for analyzing challenges in processes (Carrier & Stewart, n.a.), or any other combination of relevant perspectives. Ask participants to brainstorm either on the root causes or solutions of the problem from the different perspectives, to fill their matrix, and to present it In class.
How to implement this techniques online
Preparation, what do before the session
- Prepare a time schedule and clarify for yourself the purpose of using the method. Define the four perspectives that the students should take and clarify why those and not others. You will then be better able to explain the activity to the students.
- Prepare a document with the 2×2 matrix (Word, PowerPoint, whiteboard…) for the session. Designate the problem in the middle, and the perspectives next to their respective matrix fields (NOT in the fields – there should be enough space to write).
- (If it is not a Whiteboard:) Upload the shared document for the session to a platform where all participants have access to. If there Is more than one group, the document should have one designated slide/page for each group (indicate the group name).
- (If there are no student groups in your class:) Prepare a document indicating which student will be assigned to what group.
- Inform the participants that they will need to access the document on the day (if they have never used the platform before, ask them to test whether they can access it.)
During application, i.e., while giving the session
- On the day, introduce the session by giving the participants basic information about the purpose and the process of the exercise (e.g., duration, guidelines).
- Introduce the matrix and the perspectives, and make sure that everybody knows what they are about.
- (If necessary): Assign students to groups.
- Ask the students to open the shared document and to find their group’s matrix slide/page, or to access the whiteboard.
- Send the students to breakout rooms for about 20 minutes. Remind them every five minutes that they should now move to the next perspective (send a message into the breakout rooms).
- Keep an eye on time.
- When the participants are back, ask each group to present its matrix.
Follow-up, about what to do after the session
- A follow-up exercise might be to discuss differences and similarities between the matrixes, to summarize the main points about the different perspectives, or to have a role play where the arguments of the different groups are debated.
Examples and/or testimonials
Carrier & Stewart (n.a.) provide an example here: https://worldofwork.io/2019/08/the-reframing-matrix/
“We get our students to do a lot of reframing and mind mapping as they go through the process.” Natalie Walsh, Director of Entrepreneurial Development at the National University of Northern Ireland, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoS533pS2AE (min 03:47-05:07)
“The Reframing Matrix tool helps you to look at business problems from various perspectives. You can use these perspectives to generate more creative solutions.” (Mindtools, n.a.)
- Platform to share screen and communicate with the participants (Zoom, MS teams, etc.)
- Access to a shared document (such as a Word or Power Point or a whiteboard) that is stored in a for all participants accessible space (in MS teams, Google doc, Miro, etc.)
Carrier, J. & Stewart, J. (n.a.). The Reframing Matrix Process: A Simple Way To Improve Creativity. Online at: https://worldofwork.io/2019/08/the-reframing-matrix/
Mindtools (n.a.). The reframing matrix. Using creative perspectives to solve problems. Online at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_05.htm
MindToolsVideos (23.06.2017). The Reframing Matrix. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1-d5vK6XwE&t=1s
Troxler, Peter & Wolf, Patricia (2008). The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating— but What was the Pudding in the First Place? A Proven Unconferencing Approach in Search of Its Theoretical Foundations. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Special Issue ‘Performative Social Sciene, 9(2, Art. 41). Online available at https://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/415/900.
Mead, George Herbert (1968). Geist, Identität und Gesellschaft. Aus der Sicht des Sozialbehaviorismus. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.
Morgan, M. (1993). Creating workforce innovation: Turning individual creativity into organizational innovation. Business & Professional Pub.