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The 10th Floor Syndrome

Helping people see the world differently can be quite simple really. As simple as renaming floor 1 as 10!

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The JW Marriott near the airport in Mumbai is a lovely hotel. Like you’d expect a JW Marriott to be. 

Something interesting happened last week when I was there for a workshop I was conducting. The venue for our meeting was a lovely, well-lit room on the 10th floor. So every morning we’d troop up from the lobby to the 10th floor, and then head down to the café for lunch – and head back up post a sumptuous meal. 

On the second day of the workshop, as we got off the elevator on the 10th floor after lunch, one of the participants remarked how marvelous the elevators were: It took virtually no time to get from the lobby to floor number 10! And the elevators were so good, that it wasn’t like you felt the sudden thrust of a jet taking off. It was a smooth, no fuss ride that took you quickly from the lobby to the 10th floor. And someone said you’d expect nothing less from the fabulous folks at the Marriott!

And then it hit us. Floor number 10 wasn’t actually the 10th floor. It was in fact the first floor of the hotel. The Marriott just decided to refer to it as the 10th floor! Now many hotels probably take liberties with floor numbers. But I couldn’t help thinking how this simple renaming of floors impacted all of us – and our thinking.

Because we believed we were going from the lobby to the 10th floor in a jiffy, we were quick to think of how good the elevators were! And how magnificent the hotel was. 

We probably see a variant of the 10th floor phenomenon at work in our lives. Many organizations use a variant of the 10th floor idea to keep employees happy. In the good old days, becoming a Vice-President of the company was a big deal. It probably took three decades of dedicated service to get to that exalted position. But those were the good old days. As people’s expectations of growth and career velocity zoomed, organizations increased the number of levels to make sure employees got promoted more often. So you could now become a VP before you turned 30. Of course, post that, you’d become Exec VP. And then Senior VP. And then… the list would go on. But truth be told, there was joy in being able to tell your mother-in-law that you’d become a VP at 30. 

Shopping on the internet can give you a taste of this too. You will find sellers offering you an online program (or a book or a product) for a massive 90% discount! So you pay only $9 for something that costs $99. Needless to say, the seller just decided  that the regular price would be $99. Ah, the joys of saving $90!

All of which goes to show that it’s still true that our beliefs shape our reality. Thinking you are on the 10th floor can make you feel good about the views, and the breeze and the elevator speeds too. Belief is big. So maybe we all need to take a leaf out of the Marriott book and find ways of tweaking the world around us to help change beliefs. Other people’s. And our own too. 

Helping people see the world differently can be quite simple really. As simple as renaming floor 1 as 10!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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