I got a new camera recently, and the interesting thing about it is the features that it doesn’t have. It has a fixed-length lens, which means that there’s no zoom. There are some good technical reasons for this, but the interesting thing is that this small change has completely transformed the way that I think about photography.
Nancy and I are birders, so for us, we’ve always used optics to get us closer to things. A good pair of binoculars can get us a clear view of a small bird in the top of a tree, or a big bird a long way away. Zooming means that we don’t have to spend hours stalking closer to get a good view of a bird. For Nancy, zoom on her camera means that she can get good shots of birds that we can only just make out with the naked eye.
So I’ve always associated optical gear, both cameras and binoculars, as things that get me closer.
But there’s none of that with a fixed lens. You actually have to think about where you’re standing relative to what you’re shooting. It makes photography much more mentally engaging, and a lot more challenging. So I’ve been learning a lot.
Here is how Ken Rockwell puts it on his excellent photography blog:
With a fixed lens, or a few fixed lenses, you already know the camera’s field-of-view as you wander around. With just one fixed lens or or two, you’re already seeing what makes good compositions before you even stop to take a picture. You know what fits in your field-of-view, and you’re in compositional seeing mode as you walk about.
With a zoom, you’re not thinking as you walk around. With a zoom, you aren’t thinking about how to arrange elements inside a rectangle until after you’ve already stopped for something. Maybe that something will make a good picture, maybe not. You’re not even thinking; you’re just wandering.
After using a fixed lens for a while, you become intimately familiar with its field of view without having to look through the camera. Since you already know what fits as you walk around, so you can start seeing your compositions in your head as you move about. You can see from different angles and different heights just by moving around, without needing your camera.
He’s got a lot more to say on the subject, and you should read the whole post (and if you’re interested in photography, it’s a must-read site).
The bottom line is that changing the frame through which I view things is making me a substantially better photographer.
The same can be true in business – if you want to innovate, changing your frame of reference is a great strategy. Nilofer Merchant talks about this in her book 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, where she talks about the value of openness (a topic that Ralph Ohr just addressed here as well):
Banking on openness is like saying you have hope in people to create.
I point out this frame because it is so easy for any of us to not realize that this frame changes our vantage point. I ask you to think about what frames you are using to view the world. Frames are simply windows to shape understanding. You may be drawn to one and repelled by the other without even realizing it. But learning to apply different frames and appreciating the difference deepens our understanding. Galileo discovered this when he built his first telescope. Each lens he added contributed to a more accurate image of the heavens. Successful people do the same. They reframe until they understand the issue at hand.
Openness is a frame that helps us understand the social era. After all, we can continue to hold ideas tightly, but we must realize that this means they can’t be shared ideas. The remain alone, isolated, and separated so that they can’t be built upon, refined, and shaped into something bigger.
Right now, think about a frame that you take for granted. What assumptions lie underneath this frame? How does the world look different if you look through a different frame?
Reframing makes me a better photographer. Reframing makes us better innovators. Reframing helps us understand how business works now.