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The problem using the same framework

A beautiful blond girl is levitate with a mug of tea above the ground. Lack of gravity. Like Alice in Wonderland. A girl with long hair flies like in a fairy tale.

Frameworks, models and theories are all useful. But what if we get so used to them we start to have unconscious biases? Peter Senge uses the Ladder of Inference to explain how our beliefs impact how we select available data.
Ladder showing data, selecing data, interpretation, assumption, conclusion, belief, action
Ladder of inference

And what if we determine a problem is unsolvable because we’ve just not shifted the perspective to look at it a different way? What if dogma or a panacea model presented by the many guru’s in our field of work stops us from seeing the complex truth[1]HSD Institute – Four Truths?

If when coaching and supervising we use the same format (eg over using positive psychology or goal oriented methods and not delving deeper into problems), will we help our clients and each other? If a format becomes formulaic, then we start to understand what we will get out from what we put in.

a+b-c = d

We get an idea that presenting certain information and omitting other information (selected data) will lead to a path we are comfortable with to achieve our goals. We see this with children being denied permission from one parent and then adapting their approach to gaining permission from another. They will omit denial of their previous request when asking the other, adding in a sweeter smile to better secure success. Our reptilian brain’s basic instincts for avoiding threat and seeking reward mean we all have a predisposition to getting validation and feeding our egos – and we resist addressing the parts of us in our ‘shadow’ that we don’t like. 

A tool I sometimes find helpful is the drama triangle (victim, persecutor, rescuer) and it’s re-framing as the empowerment triangle (creator, challenger, coach). I know that I have a predisposition to enjoying a ‘rescuer’ role. If I ever feel at risk of ending up in a victim role, I will react strongly and risk ending up in a persecutor role…followed by a feeling of regret that leads me all the way back to becoming a rescuer. Having this framework is helpful to me but only because I also use meta cognition[2]Thinking about thinking and using tools to self-regulate and  when I sense I am part of an unhealthy dynamic and use heightened-self awareness, more conscious and critical thinking and other helpful tools (like the ladder of inference and empowerment triangle) to put my ego to the side and hopefully choose wise actions that will benefit all involved.

I encourage you to think about your thinking – dig deeper into your instincts and decision making process. When you start off developing higher meta cognition and challenge yourself, it can be overwhelming and you may start to send guess every decision you make (it can feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole). You also need to set a limit to how far down the rabbit hole you go so you don’t become paralysed from making a decision and taking action.

Here are my tips:

  • Mix up your models and frameworks from time to time, and explore new ones
  • Use supervision – invite in challenge and share where your biases might be
  • Talk things through with colleagues, other practitioners in your field – invite divergent views
  • Use reflective practice like journaling – review your raw thoughts and assess your thinking for biases you know you have
  • Use a growth mindset to not beat yourself up if you do suspect you’ve gone down the wrong path – you’ve now got more data to think about objectively to help your client or organisation and can adapt or reset. 
The ladder of inference

References and notes

References and notes
1 HSD Institute – Four Truths
2 Thinking about thinking and using tools to self-regulate


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