Wood or metal? Classic or contemporary? Statement-making thick or barely there minimalist? There are a lot of choices when picking out a picture frame, not to mention choosing a mat and deciding whether you want glare-free or just regular glass. My wife and I face this decision now and again when we decide to frame something important — a new photo of our children or a piece of art we’ve found.
Frames matter. Here’s another angle to framing. It’s about how conversations get framed, especially conversations about communities.
Perhaps a visit to fictitious Midville can illustrate the point. Think of Midville as an average community. It could be a town or a neighborhood; its residents are good folks — folks who care about where they live.
When they gather at the corner coffee shop, the beauty parlor, at their kids’ soccer games or even virtually in the online discussion board, midvillebabble.com, they talk about what’s going on in the community. Each of these discussions is framed in a specific way that sets the parameters and points toward a specific direction.
David Cooperrider, a professor of organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve University, noted that people and organizations move in the direction of their conversations, and the way in which those conversations get framed help to determine what that direction will be. Cooperrider developed something he called “appreciative inquiry” or AI. He defines AI as, “the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations and the world around them.”
I don’t know what conversations are like in your community, but in Midville, they are not always focused on the best of the world around them. It’s not their fault, really; most people are programmed to focus on the problems, to diagnose what’s wrong so that it can be fixed. Morning conversations around the corner table in the Midville Café are often about lazy kids, backdoor political deals and good-paying factory jobs that no longer exist. Conversations about problems.