Where Science Meets Muse

Framing a Problem – Lessons From Photography in Capturing Essence and Solutions

Posted by Plish on May 3, 2010

In a recent conversation, a colleague pointed out that when he’s with his wife (who is a photographer),  he tries to see what she sees when she stops to take a picture. It got me to thinking about how difficult that could be.   After all, the photographer is trying to capture a specific image from a specific perspective to hopefully evoke a response of some type.  In short, the photographer is trying to convey an essence of what is depicted.  But, to an outside observer, until that image is captured, it’s very difficult to get into the exact perspective of the artist.

This is very similar to what is experienced in the realm of problem solving and designing solutions. Before any solutions can be found, the problem needs to be framed – it needs to be depicted in its essence so that the situation is experienced and known in a way in which general directions of action are self-evident.  A proper frame will also often have an emotional component  that helps motivate those working on the issue. 

So what needs to be present in the framing process?

From an artistic point of view there are, basically, four aspects of framing.  They are present even in pictures we take with cell phones though the camera controls and ‘optimizes’ these variables for us.  Artists, on the other hand, are acutely aware of the impact of each of these variables and they  skillfully control them so as to maximize the impact of the framed image.

1. The Frame-Does it take in a wide or narrow view?  Square, Round or another shape?

2. Location of the Viewer-What angle is one looking through the frame? Close to the frame or far away? 

3.Moment at Which Frame Capture Occurs -What is happening at the point in time when the framing is occurring? What is the lighting like? What are others not in the center of the frame doing?

4. Length of Capture Time-What transpires during the framing time?  Is is a static or moving situation? Long or short exposure?

When framing, these four aspects guide how the final picture will look, and thus guide what message will be conveyed and what emotions will be felt by the viewer.   Together they determine if we look at a picture and say, “Yeah, that’s nice,” or look at a picture with our mouths open and say:

(There is nothing wrong with your sound card, you just listened to silence…)

These same four variables can be used to guide us when framing a problem that needs to be solved.  The difference though, (if it really is a difference) is that a properly framed problem contains the solution! 

1. Type of Frame – Is your frame specific enough to point out what seems to be the main problem, while not being so specific that it effectively eliminates certain environmental/system issues that may play a part in finding a more elegant solution?

2. Location of the Viewer-Can the stage be set so that everyone from stakeholders to clients to team members look at the same thing from the same location at the same angle?  Is it obvious to everyone that the best starting point occurs at this locus of perspective? 

3. Moment at Which Frame Capture Occurs–  Is the framed problem capturing the right moment?  Are we looking too much at what happens before or after what we think is the issue?

4. Length of Capture Time- This is related to number three but it’s more about emotion.  Do we capture the problem with a short exposure in which details are crystal clear, or a long exposure that blurs the details but  provides us with sensations of motion and activity?

Keep in mind that just as photographers will often take hundreds of pictures to end up with one that really ‘works’, so too, problem framing is a process of creating multiples,  and even redefining and refining the frame as more is learned.  If we stay cognizant of these four framing variables during the process, not only will we  get at  the essence of  problems, but we’ll be well on the way to capturing the solutions.


2 Responses to “Framing a Problem – Lessons From Photography in Capturing Essence and Solutions”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jorge Barba and Jorge Barba, Michael Plishka. Michael Plishka said: Framing a Problem – Lessons From Photography in Capturing Essence and Solutions: http://wp.me/pkQcg-wo […]

  2. […] Framing A Problem […]

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