The Six Frames Rubric: How to check if something is worth doing

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The word rubric was used centuries ago to denote headings or explanations in manuscripts that were put in red ink to have them stand out in the text.

Now it’s also used by teachers to talk about a guide or a way of marking and assessing papers – a fancy word for checklist or scoring matrix.

Edward de Bono, in his book Six Frames: For Thinking About Information, invented a way to be more deliberate and disciplined about the way in which we look at, experience and use information.

It’s such a simple and elegant approach, however, that it seems appropriate to call it a rubric rather than a checklist.

But, this rubric can be used for more than just assessing information. It’s a powerful device that we should be able to adapt and use for assessing fundamental questions such as is what you are doing worth doing?

We spend a lot of time on activities, either self imposed or given to us by others. Having a framework to look at these activities and decide which ones are more or less useful sounds like it might be helpful.

The Six Frames Rubric is a adaptation of de Bono’s tool to think about what we are doing with life in general and help us prioritise that which is useful.

1. The Pyramid: Purpose

The triangle frame has a point. It reminds you to ask how what you’re doing fits into the direction you want to go in – your purpose.

Being clear about where you’re heading and working on things that have a point to them will help you select activities that are more likely to help you do purposeful work.

2. The Circle: A target or goal

A circle looks like a target or bulls-eye and reminds you to ask whether you have goals.

Goal setting is a very useful life skill. As the saying goes – goals matter. you’re either working to achieve your own goals, or working to achieve someone else’s goals.

3. The Square: Balance

The square has equal sides. This frame reminds you to look at a situation from more than just one point of view.

Seeing something from all sides, using different perspectives and opinions, is the basis for critical thinking. Doing this is going to make your conclusions more robust.

4. The Diamond: Value

The diamond is a reminder of value. Value can be monetary – what you are working on may bring you tangible benefits like cash or intangible ones that you see as important, such as more time, or freedom.

The diamond frame reminds you to ask whether the activity you are doing is adding or subtracting value from your life.

5. The Heart: Interest or Passion

There isn’t much point spending the one life you have doing something you hate.

Assuming you have the option, isn’t it better to something you like or that you are passionate about rather than grinding it out doing something else that you are indifferent to or dislike?

The heart frame reminds you to check if what you’re doing is really what you want to do and, if it’s not, see how you can change direction.

6: The Brick: Building blocks

Finally – the brick frame is a reminder to check that what you do helps you build a body of work over time.

You need a firm foundation to develop – that is the basis of career development or business development or any other kind of activity where you want to build your capability.

It takes step by step work, and the brick frame is a visual reminder of that process.

Summary

In essence, the 6 Frames Rubric is a simple way to help you assess whether what you’re doing is worth doing.

You should be able to look at the picture once, and then remember it for a long time – the triangle with its point, the circle with a target, the square for balance, the diamond for value, the heart for passion and the brick for a foundation. These images are simple and familiar and easy to associate with these principles.

Then, when faced with an option or situation, you can run through the rubric and use it to score your alternatives and make a decision.

A simple rubric like this is a good mental model to keep in your toolbox.

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