Almost every day I would walk downstairs, using the emergency exit, through a lengthy corridor that served as the quickest way to the Nordstrom Cafe. Buying a turkey or tuna sandwich and small bottle of Pellegrino sparkling water had become my lunch ritual. It wasn't the most healthy, but at the time I was working retail in a shopping mall and aside from packing a lunch at home, it was a lot better than the food court.
On one side of the corridor was an outdoor loading dock and through the wall on the other side a retail space, Ann Taylor, closed down temporarily for remodel. Now on this particular day, there was a construction crew pacing back and forth through the corridor, inspecting the hallway. I overheard one guy complain about the extra work it was going to be to move their equipment from the loading dock, through the fifty foot corridor, into the mall, and through the entrance of the empty retail space—all this work before even getting to the real work.
I didn't pay much attention and kept walking, I was more interested in filling my stomach than the gossip of the mall contractors. Mostly I just wanted to get away from their cigarette smoke. Sure they were "outside", but isn't there some kind of law in California prohibiting you from smoking in a doorway? Oh well—again, forget it, turkey sandwich. I'm hungry.
I made my way past all the commotion, burst through the door into the mall and walked a bee line to the cafe counter to order my food.
I've been reading a book by authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath this week, entitled Decisive it serves to help you make better decisions in life and work. So far I am really enjoying it.
The first few chapters discuss narrow framing of certain questions and problems we approach. For example: My employee is not performing well, should I fire him/her or not?
The Heath brothers quickly point out how much of a red flag THIS or THAT questions are, creating a masked ultimatum and often limiting our problem solving skills to a very narrow set of solutions to a problem.
When we present problems with such narrow framing we set ourselves up for failure. We're not thinking clearly, we're most likely acting on emotion, and often end up making drastic decisions that could have been solved in a number of other creative solutions.
Decisive encourages you to think outside the box and consider all the alternatives to a relevant solution, it recommends that you surround yourself with people that think differently than yourself as to gain perspective. It's not rocket science, but I think we often forget to look at all sides of the problem. We get stuck in our narrow framing.
Days later I clocked out of for lunch, left my store and headed straight to the emergency exit hallway that would arrive me quickly and safely to my haven of turkey and tuna on wheat bread.
As I made my way downstairs, through the large metal door, and into the corridor I couldn't help but notice a large hole in the middle of the wall, what in the world happened here?
It looked as if The Incredible Hulk had lost his temper and busted through into what was once a wall and now a doorway into the empty retail space that was being prepped for remodel.
My mind was blown. All those tools, the saws, the heavy equipment. When you're a contractor and you build things for a living walls are no longer an obstacle. Hell, just put a giant hole in the wall and make yourself a doorway to your destination! When you're done, you can just patch over the wall like it never happened. Now I don't know protocol for contracting work at shopping malls, but this seemed brilliant to me. It changed the way I think about obstructions, how I approach problems.
This was five years ago and I still haven't forgotten it. It taught me to think outside the box and most importantly reminded me that just because there is a wall in the way to my destination, it doesn't mean I can't rip it down and rebuild it when finished.
If you have questions or comments about construction work, problem solving, or the books I am currently reading, email me firstname.lastname@example.org—I'd love to chat!