Reclaim or Reframe

Reclaim or Reframe - An Opinion Piece

The pandemic has forced the world to change. JIM SCULLY, co-founder of ThinkPlace New Zealand, sees this as a chance to build a better tomorrow.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world are re-evaluating their futures.

It seems to be that there are two choices: individuals, teams, and communities can reclaim “what was” by attempting to recreate the pre-lockdown status quo or they could use this as a springboard to ask “what could be?” This choice will exist for a brief window of time and could be overlooked in our rush to take decisive action. 

How might leaders use this time? There are opportunities at the team and system levels.

Opportunities Within the Team

At a team level, here are four steps team leaders could take to make the most of this moment:

  • Reconnect – Pause and engage in whakawhanaungatanga. Air individual experiences and reconnect with each other.
  • Reflect – Ask each team member for one reflection from lockdown and one key shift they could make a positive difference. Listen for insight, not for ideas that validate your opinion.
  • Reframe – Reframing is central to the art of possibility. One way to reframe your future is to write a legacy postcard to those who will follow you in three years.

A simple frame is “We achieved this new future (describe it) because we recognised the power of the possibility in July 2020 and chose a new path. Our key insights were (name them). As result of this, we took this bold action (name it) and these small but key shifts (name them).”

  • Reboot – Update your current plan with what you will do differently to create “what could be”. Don’t shy away from bold, compelling language – now is not the time to dilute the energy you have tapped into.

Reframing the System

At a system level, blend human-centered design and complex systems methodologies.

Banny Banerjee, Stanford ChangeLabs founder, said that you need to “see the system” and make sense of its dynamics. Then you can perform system acupuncture to unlock it.

Do this by creating meaningful and empathetic visual models. You can zoom into the relevant human experiences, then zoom out to identify the acupuncture points to influence. (For inspiration, read Auckland City Mission’s “Demonstrating the Complexities of Being Poor: An Empathy Tool”, which reframes the experience of what it’s like to interact within an onerous system through the lens of one woman and her children.)  

Reframing requires ambidextrous leadership. A useful frame is to think about how you lead for “improving today” while also leading for “creating a new tomorrow – one that doesn’t yet exist”. Leading for innovation requires you to create supportive conditions by eliminating fear of failure, rewarding unconventional reframing, and bravely navigating uncertainty.

Last November at the UNLEASH conference, two leaders, who were also Nobel Peace Prize laureates, shared their experiences of making change through reframing. Muhammad Yumis, Grameen Bank founder, shared how he connected with those in extreme poverty while walking to his teaching job. That experience led him to flip the banking model. This bank is based only in villages and gives business loans to extremely poor people with no form of identity and are mostly women in a Muslim country. It’s been a huge success. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, used reframing to help end Liberia’s 14-year civil war. She did this by mobilising the mothers of those fighting for peace. She told participants to never to walk on our tiptoes and to leave a positive signature on this planet.

After this time of upheaval, what will your signature be? Will you be among those who stood at this fork in the road and tried to reclaim “what was” or will you be among those who reframed “what could be” and created a better future for New Zealand.