Frames for Thinking

Oct 19 2010

“When all think alike, no one thinks very much.”  - Albert Einstein

Ways of thinking

Edward de Bono outlines six frames for thinking about information in his book of the same title.  While I can’t recommend the book, the frames are useful ways for market researchers to think about data and how it may (or may not) contribute to an insightful presentation or report. The six frames are summarised below, linking to additional ideas from a recent blog post by Paul Williams, which discusses the value of reframing questions, and one of our previous posts on questions, questions.

1) What is the purpose of the information?

What can this data add to my report and how does it help the client find an answer to their business question?  Does the client need or want this information?

2) What is the accuracy of the information?

How confident can I be that this piece of evidence is correct?  How consistent is it with other information I have?  Is the source of the information credible and authoritative?  Does the information represent many different people, or is it a summary of a wide range of opinions? Is it accurate enough to give confidence to take a specific decision, relative to the financial risk involved?

3) What point of view does the information represent?

Are there other points of view which are supported by other pieces of information?  Was the question worded to support a specific point of view, and to provide multiple points of view in the answers? What was my point of view when assessing the information, and would it’s meaning change if I approached it from a different point of view?  Or even the opposite point of view? Are there alternative ways of looking at the information?

4) How interesting is this information?

Does the information provide any new perspective or fresh insight into the problem?  Will my client be surprised or unsurprised to hear this?  Will the information be more interesting if I connect it to another data point?

5) What is the value of the information?

Does this information fill a real need?  Which client question does the information answer?  Does the information increase confidence in the overall conclusions and recommendations?  Or does it contradict previously held views (which might make it very valuable)?  Does the information open up any new opportunities for the client?  Can this information be used to create business value?

6) What is the outcome of the information?

Where does the information lead?  How does the information change the client’s view of their business?  Thinking back to the initial discussions with the client, in what ways has the information changed people’s minds?  What is the next step for the client?

Researchers should always ask as many questions of data as possible, reframing, rethinking and re-evaluating their evidence to give themselves the best chance of finding insightful answers (and further interesting questions).

And, above all, always ask yourself, “So what?”.


Six Frames for Thinking about Information by Edward de Bono (2008) 11 ways to restate problems by Paul Williams Questions, questions by Inspector Insight

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