Why did the retail chicken cross the road?

Why did the retail chicken cross the road?

Retailers often face tough choices:

  • Should we have an online business or not?

  • Should we open in this location or not?

  • Should we endorse LGBQTI event or not?

When the decision is discussed/made, these decisions are constantly being framed as something they are not. (This is difficult to explain succinctly, so bear with me.)

Every decision is (ultimately) a binary decision. But because we live in a complex, analogue world, it is very difficult if not impossible to reduce every decision to one and one only binary option. That is why in negotiation, selling, discussion, politics and decision-making in general, people tend to introduce different frames.

(On a side note: ‘framing’ is a psychological stratagem that is an excellent way to sell/persuade people in a retail selling context.)

To understand this properly, we must understand how ‘framing’ and ‘false binaries’ relate to this, so a few examples from our socio-cultural environment to illustrate.


Every decision we make is through a frame. Say you want to attend an Inside Retail conference. You could view it through different frames: Education, Entertainment, Networking or Personal Branding, for example.

Similarly, you could look at the abortion debate through a series of different frames:

The child’s right to life. A woman’s reproductive rights. Pro Life. Pro Choice.

Most reasonable people would on face value agree that we should be free to choose and that we don’t want to kill innocent babies. But you can’t believe in both those decisions, so you have to choose your frame for looking at the decision.

Frames are often implicit and formed by unconscious bias, and it takes real effort to identify and counter these.

This causes us to introduce false binaries into the decision-making.


Simple binary choices (either/or) are very often false choices because choices are made in a complex, non-binary world. (Aka false dichotomies.)

The US is going through the nomination process of their next Supreme Court judge. The decision to appoint Judge Kavanagh is a binary one. But the discussion is framed as a series of false binaries. If you endorse the (conservative) judge who is being accused of attempted rape, then you are against the #metoo movement. If you vote against the judge, you deny justice because you should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. (“One of the Best Speeches You Will Ever Hear from the Senate Floor” to read an intelligent, balanced take on the nomination.)

Closer to home the NSW State Government wants to knockdown and rebuild stadiums in a billion dollar project. Peter Fitzsimons of SMH is an opponent of the idea. He juxtaposes this as a decision about spending money on schools vs spending money on stadia.

The government will either spend the money on the stadium or not, but that does not mean they are doing it at the expense of education. If this were the case, then every dollar the government spends outside of education is at the expense of education. Is saving a couple of frogs in the forest really more important than educating our children? Upgrading a bridge in a rural country town is more important than healthcare?

That is what a false dichotomy looks like.


Consider the questions at the top of the post again. What are the questions you grapple with? In each case, evaluate what your ‘frame’ is.

When people ask the rhetorical question like “where is he/she coming from”, they are seeking to understand your ‘frame’.

Just because you don’t appoint a female as the next board member does not mean you oppose diversity. Just because you appoint a woman as the next board member, does not mean you are a feminist. (In fact just because you oppose ‘diversity initiatives; does not mean that you are an out-of-touch misogynist.)

Just because you don’t have an e-Commerce site does not mean you don’t have a strategy or that you are not innovative.

In these tough decisions, always ask yourself if this is (a) the legitimate binary choice, and (b) what frame is being used to look at the question.


If the question is ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’  you may get different responses. In each case the response reveals a different ‘frame’. Can you pick it?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

  • She wanted to stretch her legs

  • She was afraid someone would … Caesar

  • To get to the other slide

  • To search for food

  • There is a rooster on the other side…

  • I don’t know, let the chicken mind its own business

  • Because she could

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