Barb Shelly wrote a commentary in the Kansas City Star titled: ‘Pink Slime’ A Product Of Our Cheap-Beef Economy. In that article she quotes Donald D. Stull, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Kansas, saying this about pink slime:
“It is interesting to watch how framing really transforms the dialogue. It seems to me that critics have framed the debate in such a way that the meat industry is going to have a hard time recovering.”
Whether or not you find the use of pink slime hard to swallow is not the point of this post. My interest is creativity and innovation in the workplace and how framing those activities either promotes or discourages their occurrence and success.
Consider the impact of these frames:
“Let’s develop some alternatives.” vs. “Let’s make a wish-list.”
“Consider a variety of scenarios that will get this done.” vs. “Figure out how to get this done.”
“What are the options here?” vs. “Got any bright ideas?”
There’s a major difference between calling a beef product “lean finely textured beef” rather than “pink slime.” One invites, the other repels. It’s the same with the phrases we use to initiate creative thinking. Some phrases encourage creative thinking while others discourage creative thinking.
A list of alternatives is more concrete and more likely to be valued than a wish-list. Considering a variety of scenarios implies thoughtfulness and planning. Figuring out how to get something done has a sense of urgency that may preclude consideration of options other than those already known and used. Asking for options is a neutral request. Asking for bright ideas bears a bit of sarcasm.
If you’re looking for new ideas, options or opportunities from your team, consider how you’re framing your requests for more creative thinking. Some work and some don’t. Be a Brilliance Activator, not a Slime Ball!