Freelancer Tips

Why I’m Wary of Frameworks

How templates can cripple your creativity

Photo by Camila Margotta

If you’ve ever attempted to use a creative framework to help you accomplish something, tell me if this sounds familiar:

You notice an offer from some well-intentioned industry authority that promises to show you how to utilize a skill you’re either curious about, uncomfortable with, or just not yet competent in. It probably comes in some unique, proprietary package that allows you to enter critical insights into a “fill-in-the-blank” style format and then repeat that process for all of your work — sound about right?

You put it into practice and…well …it’s better than what you had but not quite what you were hoping for. Replacing the provided information with your own just didn’t work as well as you’d expected. Now that you’re looking closely, it kind of seems eerily similar to everyone else’s stuff. More questions begin to form, and those feelings of being uncomfortable surface again — leaving you to wonder what the hell just happened?

Well, the thing about frameworks is that although they can make the “desired” outcome scalable, repeatable, and all those other salesy buzzwords that sound appealing, they also run a high probability of producing similar results when applied repeatedly in the same manner. And though this may not be breaking news to most of you, it’s worth noting for that unsuspecting freelancer who’s living paycheck to paycheck, trying to decide if they should take a chance on that masterclass or toolkit that keeps popping up on their feed.

The truth is that regardless of how they’re marketed or sold, frameworks aren’t intended to be end-to-end solutions. They aid us in starting, much like training wheels on a bicycle. In actuality, assembly line solutions just aren’t an ideal way to solve creative problems. The best results often come from thinking outside of the box, right? So, what else should we expect when working inside of a frame?

These tools work much better as the start of a larger conversation and effort — not as a shortcut right to the end. No matter how any framework, facilitated exercise, or toolkit is presented, we have to learn the underlying theories and principles that drive them, then focus on applying them appropriately. If we fail to do so, we’ll likely find that these tools designed to enable our creativity will imprison it.

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Frankie Margotta

Strategist • I think a lot—and sometimes I write it down • San Diego, CA