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A_Framework_To: Frameworks: Dissecting Cultural Concepts
A_FRAMEWORK_TO is a 3-Part series exploring the role of frameworks in breaking down complex cultural concepts to its parts.
No matter your role — strategist, researcher or creative — we’re often required to become overnight experts. It’s no easy feat especially considering the topics, challenges, and phenomenon we’re facing today.
“How can we predict behaviors in the metaverse before it even exists? How should brands navigate the lack of institutional trust? Do consumers actually care about the climate crisis, or really just want two-day shipping? What’s the right way to balance personalization and privacy? What’s the best way to ensure mental health is central to a company’s culture?”
When these are the types of concepts we’re dealing with today, we often reflexively ask: “Where the fuck do we start?”
The best start to become the expert is to just start eating.
Hunt, gather and consume any and all information that could be relevant to understanding the concept we’re dealing with. In the ideal world, we’d be historically immersed in the topic, but considering our pace, landscape and how many orgs are staffed, everything is new.
So, once the information is gathered, comes the harder parts...
How do we then 1. organize it, 2. comprehend it, and 3. act upon it?
What we need is a foundational understanding of that concept so we can easily communicate it and then build something off of it — ex. a brief, campaign, strategy, product, etc.
What we need is a framework.
There are plenty of frameworks for the marketing or consulting world (i.e. the brief or how to find insights), but rarely are frameworks created (let alone shared) for cultural concepts.
Cultural Concept Frameworks are invaluable because they explain the inner-workings of an intricate subject down to its bare essentials — the bones. No fluff, just the core components. The mechanics. This allows the reader (ex. client) to see a complex idea distilled down to its lightest, most durable essentials. Frameworks support weight and action. Once built, we (or they) can work from there.
Cultural Concept Frameworks open-source the instruction manual of an intricate subject so others can more easily understand and act upon it — building more informed, i.e. better products and services.
As cultural complexity ravages, it would behoove us to start thinking more about these frameworks and begin sharing them (internally or externally). After all, anything that requires a framework to help explain it, is likely worthy of paying attention to.
A few learnings on frameworks:
Frameworks are ecosystems: Being able to tell a story around your framework means all the pieces are working together — they each inform one another. You better be able to play the narrator, otherwise you’re left with a provocative shell but nowhere to go. Each gear plays an important role. Explain how they each work together.
Death by framework is a real risk: There’s a fine line between clarity and clutter. With too many pieces attempting to explain a concept, you end up not leaving enough room for anyone to actually use it. Don’t over explain, making it unusable. Frameworks are frames, not complete pictures. Essentialism is required. Know when to walk away.
Frameworks will out you: If you haven’t put the work in (all that hunting and gathering), frameworks will underscore that. Frameworks will not protect you from the reality of bad research. A good framework reveals that you know the topic inside and out. You’ve broken out — and down — each of the moving gears. A shit framework reveals that you don’t know the slightest about this concept. Do the work.
Frameworks are the beginning: A framework doesn’t have to have the complete answer (it shouldn’t), but it needs to be the map for one. Frameworks are inspiration. The start. A foundation. Frameworks imply instructions, but leave room for interpretation. This is a tough balance, but ultimately we want to set the reader up for action. Provide the “assist.”
Frameworks simplify, but it’s going to get damn messy before we get there.
Roll up the sleeves and dig in.