Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hiding issues in plain view--where's the octopus?

Why do people support stupid ideas? Because they can't see the octopus hiding in plain view. Politicos are adept at hiding issues in plain view and disguising stupidity as a good idea.

Take overfishing for example. It's obvious that overfishing is bad because it's like spending your inheritance...a nice binge that leaves a rotten hangover when the money's gone (or the fish are gone). It's hard for fishermen to resist, but managers and politicians ought to get it.

Unfortunately the tired and effective camouflage of "conservation vs. jobs" still works with many-maybe most- people. Ugh. We're probably going to overfish Atlantic bluefin tuna again next year, because fishing at a responsible level is unacceptable because "it will put people out of work." Nevermind that it's really last year's overfishing that is putting people out of work.

That's the octopus hiding in plain view. Overfishing is stupid, harmful, and ultimately self-defeating. But it's camouflaged as a good job for somebody.

Fishermen and their political supporters who want to catch more fish today have camouflaged overfishing by claiming that it creates jobs, despite the fact that overfishing actually kills jobs.

What's the solution? How can a politically unpopular necessity like stopping climate change be re-framed back into a good idea?

Natt Nisbet reports on the Frameworks Institute's answer:

A well-framed issue should move from the abstract to the specific, because that’s how the brain processes information.

  • Start with a value: What is at stake?
  • Describe the issue: What is this about?
  • Introduce the solution: How would policy help?

Manuel outlined FrameWorks’ six steps to reframing:

1. Explain the issue in a way that redirects people away from the default cultural model(s).

2. Identify values that make societal, not individual goals, obvious.

3. Create simplifying models that better explain how your issue works.

4. Provide metal shortcuts for ease of comprehension. Mental shortcuts include values, context, metaphors, numbers, visuals, tone, and messengers.

5. Explain the consequences of inaction.

6. Show how policy can be a solution.

I know it works, I was part of a project a few years ago where the Frameworks Institute gave some good advice. I didn't fully understand it at the time, it was deceptively radical and I was distracted by some aspects of the advice that didn't sit right with me. I was still seeing a rock instead of an octopus. Now I get it, and they're right. I won't talk about the details, but I've been part of effective campaigns that showed people the octopus.

In fact, that's now my personal mantra that reminds me not to get trapped in other people's bad framing...when things start looking wrong, I ask myself "where's the octopus" and it reminds me to get out of someone else's bad framing of an issue.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

*4: metal shortcuts ?