March 13

Solve Tough Problems by Reframing Them

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Think about this for a moment…

You are the owner of a old office block. The elevators in the building are slow and creaky. People are frustrated at how long they have to wait for the elevators.

Some of your tenants are so frustrated that they are threatening to quit their lease unless you do something about it.

What do you do?

When we pose this question in our workshops we tend to get answers like

  • Install a new elevator
  • Improve the motor system
  • Add an extra elevator
  • Improve the algorithm

All of these are valid options.

But do you notice something? All of the solutions only consider one perspective. The perspective of the tenants.

From the perspective of the building owner every option is costly, complex and time-consuming.

A different view…

When this problem is given to people who work in facilities management, we get an entirely different set of solutions:

  • Market the building as a slow and relaxed environment to work
  • Encourage people to take the stairs as part of a healthy lifestyles program
  • Install mirrors in the elevator lobby to give people something to do while they wait

That last one huh? ☝

If you’ve ever stayed in a large hotel you’ll have seen enormous mirrors on every floor.

Now you know why!

Stop. Reframe the Problem.

When faced with a problem, almost all of us immediately race to come up with solutions.

But what if instead we stopped and took the time to REALLY understand the problem first?

What other solutions might emerge then?

Next time you have a tricky problem to solve, try looking for the hidden assumptions in how the problem is framed.

Then reframe the problem from different angles and see what new solutions emerge.


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