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Why do elevators have mirrors?

Reframing is one of the most powerful tools for solving problems. To illustrate how it works, here's an example:

Imagine that you are the manager of a block of flats and the tenants come one after the other and complain that "The elevator is too slow".

How would you solve the problem?

  • Option 1: you would look for solutions to make the elevator faster, such as upgrading the motor or installing a new elevator.

  • Option 2: rephrase the problem to "The wait is annoying". This converts the solution space into ideas to make the wait shorter. Such as installing mirrors, music and hand sanitizers.

Option 2 is much more economical. And, most importantly, it solves the right problem.

This is a classic example of 𝙍𝙚𝙛𝙧𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙜 - one of the most powerful tools for solving problems.

Why it works?

To take the problem in the context presented to you is to limit your view to one person's (or group's) perception and perspective. In decision-making, we call this "narrow framing".

Instead, explore the situation.

Ask why (5 times) to get to the heart of the matter.

Think about the issue from the perspective of others.

And only when you are sure you have found the right problem, start working on solving it.

Why it works in this example?

In this case, the heart of the matter is the tendency or discomfort that most people experience when they are not doing something. It’s called IDLENESS AVERSION sand it means that people are HAPPIER when they’re BUSIER.

With this in mind, giving people something to do (like checking themselves in the mirror or sanitizing their hands).

It’s what Disney Parks do with entertaining at queues. They spend millions making waiting in line fun with interactive puzzles, music, and even mysteries you can solve while you wait.⁠

It’s what Netflix does with autoplay. Debating and deciding what to watch can take a lot time. It’s more fun when you have clips and trailers entertaining you.⁠

It’s what Uber and food delivery services do with real-time tracking. Waiting for a ride or worse, your food (!!), can seem like forever. Having a live car animation that shows you where the driver is in real time keeps the mind busy.


Explore any problem before you try to solve it. Make sure you understand the cause, otherwise you will end up treating the symptom.

Much like idleness aversion can be the solution to the elevator problem, another behavioral insight might be the solution to a different challenge.


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