Frameworks, matrices, canvas are great tools to organize thinking and guide action.

And they should be approached with two things in mind.

First, you need to understand how they work. To do that you often have to read articles and papers from the people who have proposed the tool you want to use, and possibly also from people who have challenged their usefulness.

This is particularly problematic with models that are very well known and frequently quoted in organizations, such as the 5 forces by Porter, or the S.W.O.T. matrix, or the Competing Value Framework by Cameron and Quinn. People use these without actually knowing what the authors had in mind, or without having any reference to get them started, and as a result they are often misused. Even when a colleague suggests they have all the information you might need to get started, challenge them and dig into the original material.

Second, they are simplification of reality. And so they might not fit 100% to the specific case you are trying to apply them to. They might need some adjustments. And that is one more reason why it is important to study them, so that when rules need to be bent, it’s not going to betray the purpose or the essence of the tool.

Slavishly applying a framework, a matrix, a canva to your business, and doing that by only looking at the superficial level, it’s most likely not going to bring about the change you are seeking.

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