#29: Sometimes the way to answer a problem isn’t to find the solution immediately but reframe it.
Whenever a new season of my favorite TV show is released, I would binge-watch to the end of the episodes on a single weekend. Streaming platforms are changing the way we watch television with thousands of movies and TV shows available at any time. The next episode is 5 seconds away or just a single tap from the "Next Episode" button.
If I recall back to the days when I was a kid, I had to wait for the next week for a new episode. I remember eagerly anticipating a new episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers every week.
Research suggests that watching multiple episodes of your favorite show in a row causes your brain to release a chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel happy and excited. This can become a bit like getting addicted to drugs. So, the more you binge-watch, the more your brain wants you to keep watching—and it's bad for your brain. Studies have shown that watching a significant amount of television during middle age is linked to an increase in memory loss and a decline in fine motor skills.1
Netflix does have a solution for people who don't want to be nudged into watching the next episode. They can toggle off the "autoplay next episode" feature on profile settings. Netflix presents the solution neutrally, without making it feel like addressing a particular issue. In comparison, YouTube is very clear about reminding users of their well-being.2
I'm wondering why Netflix doesn't frame this as a well-being consideration and why they don't take a stance on this matter as Google does. Perhaps, it could potentially affect their business as it goes against Netflix's "north star," which measures the time users spend watching. Even the CEO mentioned years ago that Netflix's competition is sleep.3 We wouldn't want Netflix to cancel so many shows that fail to meet their completion rate target4.
What if Netflix or other streaming platforms wanted to tackle this problem without treating it as a major well-being concern?
How could they reframe the issue in a fun and entertaining manner?
Something like: Introducing Weekly Release Mode - Enjoy the thrill of anticipation! Weekly Release Mode lets you savor each episode one at a time so you can embrace the excitement of waiting and make your viewing journey a memorable one.
Earlier, we attempted to frame the issue of binge-watching as something harmful to well-being. In problem-solving, you have framed a problem to solve, you can either keep going to find a solution, or stop and wonder if you're solving the right problem. Even if you have the solution, You can still ask whether you've found the right solution: Will this be the right solution?
Are we solving the right problem? Is this the solution we want?
If the answer is no, then you might need to take a detour: Reframe the problem.
Reframing, in short, means examining different perspectives to discover if there are new and better ideas available. These ideas could be more efficient, more effective, or more feasible as quick wins.
Perhaps you have heard of the famous Slow Elevator Problem5. The owner of an office building was receiving complaints about the elevator being very old and moving quite slowly. This had left the people who rented office spaces there feeling unhappy. Some of these renters were even discussing the possibility of leaving due to this elevator problem. When the owner asked these individuals for ideas on how to fix things, they came up with a few suggestions. Some said you could buy a completely new elevator. Others thought that if you put in a stronger engine, the elevator might start moving faster.
There's nothing wrong with the solutions. But let's imagine that getting a new elevator is out of the question, and installing a stronger engine won't be possible anytime soon. It's in this situation that we should start looking at the problem from a different perspective. In the story, the owner learned that the slow elevator was the problem, but essentially people hate waiting. It’s just frustrating. So the reframed problem becomes: How can he make the long waiting time not seem so lengthy and perhaps a bit more enjoyable?
To practice reframing, consider asking questions like "What if we saw this situation in a completely different way?"
These prompts might be useful for you too:
What if this problem were an opportunity? How would I approach it differently?
How might someone with a completely different background view this situation?
If I were a child, how would I simplify this complex issue?
What assumptions am I making about this problem? How would things change if those assumptions were invalid?
How could I reframe this challenge to align with the goals and values of a different stakeholder?
If I were an outsider looking in, what insights might I gain about this situation?
If I had all the resources I needed, how would my approach to this problem change?
What emotions am I associating with this problem, and how might changing those emotions impact my approach?
What if I considered the opposite of my initial solution? How might that lead to a better outcome?
If this problem were a puzzle piece, how might it fit into a larger picture?
Sometimes the way to answer a problem isn’t to find the solution immediately but to reframe it.
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