Frameworks vs. Experience

by Kate Brodock on 17 October 2007

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[*Disclaimer* I am using the term "framework" very generally here, emphasizing those frameworks that are generally used in business, government, education, etc used to shape a way of thinking]

There have been some recent changes at our school concerning curriculum, and how to best teach our students what they need to know when leaving business school. It made me think about a very important point that I think applies to education, business, and most importantly, life as a whole.

Frameworks and the use of frameworks have their limits. They are very useful for certain ways of thinking, certain actions, certain teachings. They structure our thoughts in a way that (ideally) allows to see and tackle the problem/concept/idea more effectively. They work well in industries like marketing or consulting. They work well in classes like strategy or service operations. Thought processes are the focus of frameworks, more specifically how to organize your thinking more efficiently or concretely.

Where frameworks begin to take away from the full capabilities of learning is when it turns experience, or feeling, into thinking. For instance, if one were to go out to do community service, I feel that the experience gained is highly compromised by trying to force it into a framework. You don’t “learn” about “how” to do community service. You go out and you feel it.

Ask yourself what would be more rewarding and you might get a sense of what I’m talking about: dropping in a soup kitchen, passing out soup for a few hours, during which time you can chat with those around you, feel and see what they’re going through, and allow for compassion, or dropping in a soup kitchen after having been briefed on “effective volunteering structure” and asked to debrief the process and implementation afterwards.

Yes, there is a certain amount of learning that can be applied to something like community service, but people are going to grow the most when they feel while volunteering, rather than think while volunteering.

Frameworks don’t teach you to look into someone’s eyes when you’re talking to them, to connect with them, have compassion for them and interact with them on a human-to-human basis. In fact, if anything, they might even detract from that. Frameworks are sometimes too black-and-white, too structured to allow for spontaneity or a change of course that might actually require a gut feeling to initiate.

If we were to live our lives in a world of frameworks, wouldn’t be a rather robotic, emotionless existence?

Or maybe we just need to feel our frameworks…mmm… no, I don’t like that idea. Let’s just trust our feelings sometimes.

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