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Get your problems right

16 years and 11 months ago · listen

People say that I'm a good person in problem solving. They say that because sometimes I get out of the box solutions, and they see it as something unusual. Well, I'm not a special guy, what I do is always trying to get the problem right, and that is half way to good problem solving.

When I was in university, I had a course named "systems analysis", and one day, the teacher told us a story on this matter, which I will share with you. Every time I'm confronted with a difficult problem, I think on this story and try to use the lessons learned. So, here is the story.

The story

Once upon a time, this five star hotel was having a lot of customers complaining about the time they had to wait for the elevators. In order to solve this problem, the manager gathered a multidisciplinary team, and told them to think about this and present some solutions in a week.

So, a week later, these guys where at a meeting room, and started to present some possible solutions. The architects told the solution was on building extra elevators, and already had some plans of where to do it. All they had to do was to convert some rooms to elevator halls and construct new elevators shacks all the way up.

The engineers said there solution was simpler, since all they have to do was to substitute the elevators engines with more powerful ones, and enforce the cabling in order to sustain the new tensions. This way, with faster elevators, times would be shorter.

The mathematicians came with another solution: they studied the normal operation of the elevators, and realise that around 50% of times, the ground floor was the beginning of the journey. So, there's solution was to had a programmable module to the elevators, and make them go to the ground floor every time they were idle, and stay there waiting for customers.

And then, was this guy at the end of the table, who said: guys, everyone here focused on the elevators for solving the problem. But bare in mind that the problem here is not about the elevators being slow, it's about people complaining about the time they have to wait for them. So, my solution is to put some mirrors between the elevators doors, in order to give people something to do while they wait. All people, in some degree, like to stare at themselves, to check for knot ties, see how the hair is going, etc. So, if we distract people while they are waiting, they will not realise the time they are waiting for the elevators, so the problem will be solved.

Since this latest solution was the cheapest and fastest to implement, the hotel manager decided to take it a try, so mirrors were installed in all elevators halls across the hotel.

Complaints dropped to zero.