By Amanda Kamarck, Two-Year MBA ’18
Park Perspectives are authored by Johnson’s Park Leadership Fellows.
“Why would you do that?” “What are you going to do with that?” “What’s the point of that?” “Why?”
You’d be surprised to learn that these were the questions I heard from not only my nursing co-workers when telling them of my decision to pursue an MBA, but also my classmates when discussing my post-MBA plans to return to clinical nursing.
This semester I took a class, Managerial Decision Making taught by Professor Jay Russo, in which we discussed the importance of both thinking and decision frames. We discussed how thinking frames are the lenses through which we see the world. We can see one situation through multiple frames, but whichever frame we see through at any given time highlights different elements, while simultaneously leaving the others in the shadows. For example, we can see a decision or situation through the functional frame of a business school student, a marketer, a financial professional, a nurse, a doctor, or a manager. There may be some overlap in the highlights and shadows of different frames, and it may be required that an individual manage multiple frames at one time. It is also possible that you may be tasked to work with someone who has a frame that competes with your own.
The concept may seem obvious, but I found it a particularly powerful way to bring to light and conceptualize the simple differences each and every one of us have in our perceptions based on past experiences or simply our current role.
The importance of shifting your frame
During one of these classes on framing, Professor Russo said something that really resonated with me and helped me to fully understand what it is that I am doing here in business school. To discuss the significance of understanding other frames, particularly when evaluating a decision, Professor Russo related the common phrase of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” What struck me was what he said next, which was something along the lines of: “and the only way you can do that is if you take your shoes off first.”
This might seem like a totally bizarre thing to find so impactful, but I felt as though it finally validated what it is that I’m doing pursuing an MBA. I can now see that many of the problems faced by my pre-MBA work organizations were due to decisions made from conflicting frames. Nurses are often faced with the forced adoption of policies or procedures and adapting to new materials due to decisions made from a strictly financial frame of someone in upper management. This conflicts with the frame of the nurse, who is usually much more focused on the well-being and experience of the patient rather than the financial outcome of the hospital.
It requires extra effort and a lot of self-awareness to be willing and able to shift your frame to see a problem or a situation from someone else’s perspective or from multiple perspectives at one time. But through this class and through these discussions, I realized how important it was for me to step away from nursing to gain a greater understanding of business and management, so that when I return to nursing and move toward a hospital management role, I am able to view the decisions of the hospital through the frame of both an RN and an MBA simultaneously. By doing this, I hope to be able to maximize a viewpoint of my combined frame, with more highlights revealed and fewer elements left in the shadows. And while I can say for certain I haven’t achieved this frame quite yet, I know that learning from my peers in this immersive business school environment will help me immensely as I work toward a wider frame.
Curiosity over judgment
The second-year Park Fellows were lucky enough to have a session on coaching, taught to us by our peers who are currently acting as Johnson Leadership Fellows. I found their discussion to be highly related to the idea of understanding another person’s frame.
They emphasized the importance of asking “what” and “how” questions, rather than “why” to seek curiosity over judgment. I have often felt judged during this experience—often times most harshly by myself—having come to Johnson from a non-traditional background. By re-framing this experiencing and recognizing the importance of shifting and widening my frame, I am learning to be kinder to myself. I also realize now how fortunate I am to have classmates that have become friends who have helped me to discover what it is about both nursing and business that I enjoy, and how I can combine the two in the future to be a successful leader in the healthcare environment.
About Amanda Kamarck, Two-Year MBA ’18
Previous Academic Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Previous Employer: United States Army
Interests: Equity research, investing, soccer, snowboarding, chess
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