The Power of Perception: Elevator Mirrors & the Non-Obvious Solution

The history of elevator mirrors

Elevators didn't always have mirrors. In the early industrial age, many new buildings were taller than anything ever built before, and most had elevators......slow elevators though, painfully slow. And this was back before there were iPhones to distract us. And people complained, a lot. So the engineers got to work fixing the problem riders complained about, slow elevators.

Simple right?

Problem: elevator speed

Solution: speed up the elevators

Not so fast...or should I say slow?

I can't track down who said it, but some genius engineer redefined the problem statement...

From --> "The elevators are slow..."

To --> "People THINK the elevators are too slow..."

This change in framing prompted a new solution shifting how engineers thought about the problem to solve. What if speeding up the elevators wasn't the solution? What if the feeling of "slow" was relative?

Perhaps riders' perception of time was the issue but not time itself.

How do you change one's perception of time?

Distract them :)

Mirrors were installed to distract riders and overnight complaints dropped to almost zero while the speed of the elevators remained exactly the same. The mirror solution proved easier, faster & cheaper than speeding up the elevators. Next time you hear a customer complaint or feature request... think of the mirrors in the elevators.

Think about how approaching a problem with a psychological lens rather than a technical lens can warrant different questions and therefore different answers. The best solution isn't always the obvious one.

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