Goal framing differs from value framing and temporal framing in that it involves knowing whether you continually take actions toward a business, career or entrepreneurial goal not whether you make a single decision with success.
This stronger effect of a negative business and career frame is similar to the phenomenon of loss aversion for entrepreneurs
Suppose you are an educator trying to encourage parents to teach their children about good savings habits. The benefits of this program are straightforward: it helps their mathematical skills planning for the future and teaches them basic business and economics. So how should those benefits be conveyed so the parents engage in the desired behavior with success?
A positive frame could have the following hypothetical advice. “Children whose parents teach them good savings habits by age 8 are more likely to save enough money for retirement in adulthood.” This sounds like an entrepreneur. Or, the same information can be presented in a negative frame, “children whose parents do not teach them good saving habits by age 8 are less likely to save enough money for retirement in adulthood.” This sounds like a bad career advice.
Both frames have the same advice and are intended to encourage the same behavior: teaching children financial skills is good business. So the question is not what behavior the frame encourages with success, but how does it work, while it encourages that behavior. Yet, surprisingly, as a general guideline, negative frames are more effective, the negative outcome carries more weight than the positive outcome especially people when see a credible link between their action and that negative business and career outcome.
This stronger effect of a negative frame is similar to the phenomenon of loss aversion in business and career that I described in early article, but I want to offer an important caveat: negative frames are more effective when specific actions lead to concrete outcomes, but they can be less effective when the link between actions and goals is much weaker. If you are trying to encourage with success pro-environmental actions like minimizing one’s carbon footprint, for example, negative frames may be ineffective.
A powerful tool for making business and career decisions with success
When you sacrifice your money or energy to help the environment your own business actions have negligible effects on your career compared to the larger societal trends and even those larger societal trends won’t lead to negative personal consequences until some distant future date. So without tangible links between one’s own choices and the goal, a negative frame can encourage disengagement and success rather than action.
The simple framing effect provides the most powerful tool for making good entrepreneurial decisions. You can readily change how you approach your own business decisions by just changing the frame. Nothing about the external environment nor the decision itself needs a change, you just need to approach with success the same decision in a different way, but because frame effects are so powerful and so ubiquitous they can influence our behavior even when were not aware.
Consumer marketing and the business environment are rife with framing effects. Like in the example of the 90% lean ground beef our business experience with a product can be shaped by the way information is presented on a product label, but there are some ways we could inoculate ourselves against unwanted framing. The best approach is to obtain independent information with success, evaluating your options before we know how they are labeled.
In that study of framing on the taste of grounded beef there was one other success condition: some participants tasted the ground beef first then read about whether was 90% lean or 10% fat. That initial experience greatly attenuated the framing effect. People aren’t as influenced by those phrases when they already experienced the meat in the decision.
When you face a challenging business and career decision step away from it for a moment
Throughout this article I described a number of different business frames you can use in your own career decisions: things like thinking about gains as to the losses, considering penalties instead of discounts, envisioning the success of the future rather than the present or the present instead of the past. All these work in specific circumstances for entrepreneurs, but there’s one approach to framing that almost always helps or at least almost always gives you new insight into your decisions and that’s taking another’s perspective.
When you face a challenging business and career decision step away from it for a moment, imagine that a good friend was faced with a similar decision. What factors would you want your friend to consider? What’s most important and what can be ignored? And, what would you think of your friend if they made one choice or the other? When we think about decisions from another’s perspective, we engage new cognitive processes and we minimize the influence of our immediate emotional state with success.
Again thinking about friend’s decision won’t always give you the right choice but it can be a good guide as to what’s really important. Finally, a change of the frame can just help you feel better about your decisions, your successes and your failures. At the 2010 Vancouver Winter games the Canadian skier Jennifer Heil was visibly disappointed when she finished in second place. She felt the pressure of her nation to be the first Canadian to win a gold medal on home soil.
When interviewed after the race her thoughts dwelled on her mistakes in the lost opportunity. A day later she had changed a reference point, she now smiled and celebrated and she was no longer ashamed of losing gold, but justifiably proud of having won the silver metal. The next year at the world championships she won gold. Why?
Because goal framing differs from value framing and temporal framing in that it involves knowing whether you continually take actions toward a business, career or entrepreneurial goal not whether you make a single decision with success.