Mental frameworks are structures that help us interpret and understand reality.
However, instead of universal truths, these frameworks are constructs imbued with subjectivity, influenced by the experiences and perspectives of those who develop them. For example, a framework created by North American specialists in a context of high productivity might be less relevant in a different cultural or economic environment, such as the Latin American one.
Interpretive Tools, not absolute truths
Reality is colored by the subjectivity of each individual. A mental framework built from the experience of scarcity will undoubtedly be different from that of someone who has lived in abundance. In the words of Alfred Schutz: ‘The origin of all reality is subjective; everything that excites and stimulates our interest is real’ (197). Therefore, there are multiple realities, and the frameworks help us navigate them. However, they only sometimes correspond precisely to our situation.
The influence of frameworks on our perception is undeniable. If we approach the world with a scarcity-based focus, we will likely see more barriers than opportunities.
Intersubjective Perspective and Multiple Realities
It is essential to understand the intersubjective perspective. It suggests that the everyday life world is a commonly shared space that precedes our birth, a world already interpreted and lived by others before us. As Alfred Schütz points out in The Meaningful Construction of the World, this already structured world integrates and shapes with our own experiences and interpretations.
A crucial element in Schutz’s thought is that ‘every interpretation of the meaning of the social world is pragmatically determined’ (page 68). In other words, We interpret this world based on a wealth of previous experiences. It implies that, beyond perceiving the world as a private reality, we read into it using a reference scheme built from past and shared experiences. In this dynamic, we constantly act upon the world, leaving our marks and modifying it in a process Schutz describes as eminently practical.
Redefining and adapting our frameworks
When we use a framework with indifference, we forget that reality constantly redefines itself. It is necessary to adapt frameworks to our contexts and recognize their limitations. In this sense, adopting critical thinking allows us to objectively evaluate them and make informed choices, adjusting them as our understanding of the environment evolves.
Thanks to Abner Trejos (See Linkedin) for the examples for this article:
‘When exiting a shopping center, the barrier broke. Then, people put a box with money. There was no traffic jam or queue, nor did people start shouting; instead, they left the cash and took the change. They self-organized so that it did not become chaotic due to the damage to the parking payment system. In Japan, people self-organize as part of their culture, education, and worldview.
In the United States, I experienced that with the weather forecast; they packed their suitcase, chose shoes for light rain, or made decisions about eating between hours based on real-time metrics to know what they would do according to the weather.
In Colombia, we do not live by looking at metrics and making decisions; it is very alien. My premise is that cultural proximity to that attitude facilitates the adoption of frameworks at work to solve problems in companies and teams with customers. Here, other things or adaptations are needed for them to work in our logic and our reality.’
Frameworks function as interpretive lenses but should never be considered exact representations of reality. By recognizing this distinction and being aware of their subjective nature, we can be more adaptable and flexible and improve our interaction with the world around us.