Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reframing the Question

An excellent article in the recent HBR by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg  (“How Good Is Your Company At Problem Solving?”) surfaced a problem that faces some of the most aggressive,  get-it-done entrepreneurs: They don't spend enough time framing the question before they rush in to solve it.

Here' how it works:  You own an office building.  Your tenants are complaining that the elevator is too slow. 
How do you solve the problem?

One perfectly good way is to upgrade the elevator or install a new one, making the elevator faster.

Another—and this is genius—it to put mirrors up around the elevator, which causes people to stare at themselves, an infinitely interesting activity.  People stop complaining.  The elevator is no faster, but the problem has been reframed from “How do we speed up the elevator?” to “How do we make the wait more pleasant?”

It may remind you of those long, snaking lines at Disney—but in the shade, and with giant digital screens entertaining your kids.
Another management team might change the hours of the cafeteria to spread elevator ridership over long periods, reframing the problem as “How do we shave the peaks?”  That’s clever too, and a lot less capital out the door than a new elevator.
The author provides seven practices for effective reframing, such as bringing in outsiders and getting people to frame the problem in writing to compare and create alignment.  But for me, if I keep that elevator example in mind, I’ve got a great tool for futures.