Finding the Elevator

CC Image by Mike Bitzenhofer

Finding The Elevator 

I want to start this week with a story.


Jordan and Taylor get hired by a prestigious company in a city with a thriving downtown. The company just moved into the 89th floor of a new skyscraper, a competitive building that is making its name as a hotbed for innovation in their industry.

A year goes by and both Jordan and Taylor are making headway in their careers. They are getting along with their colleagues, finding pleasure in their work, and both received a pay raise at the end of the year. A prominent business journal ran an article last month calling out their company as one of the businesses to watch this year.

One morning, on the way to get a coffee refill, Jordan bumps into Taylor.

“Beautiful morning,” Jordan says.

“Yeah, beautiful once you get up here,” Taylor says, ripping the corner off a packet of sugar and pouring the contents into a coffee mug. Not looking up, Taylor says, “I don’t know how much longer I can deal with those stairs.”

“You take the stairs?” Jordan asks, “That’s quite the hike, don’t you think?”

“How else would I get up here?”

“I use the elevator.”

“There’s an elevator?” Both pause. Taylor crumples the empty sugar packet and motions towards the compost container and stops again. Puzzled, Taylor says, “Then why are the stairs always so crowded in the morning?”


I know this is a silly analogy, and who in their right mind wouldn’t know there is an elevator in a skyscraper, but the metaphor holds truer than one may suspect. In a new world with big shifts in culture and technology, doing what our predecessors did or what others do won't always get the job done—and more than likely will lack efficiency.

Many people confuse doing a lot more work with productivity. Although being productive does require skill and effort, you will be running in circles (or stuck on the stairs) if it is not the right kind of effort. Sometimes we do things a certain way because we have always done them that way. Just because we took the stairs to the second floor at our last job doesn’t mean the same approach should be used at our new job on the 89th floor. Among many things, this metaphor can apply to how we schedule meetings, which tools and processes we use, and how we address the changing needs of our industry. We often take too many steps in the name of efficiency and hard work when a fast-paced global industry allows and requires us to look for ways to reduce steps and elevate workflow.

Keep in mind there is a faster and more efficient solution to your problem. Unfortunately, some extraordinary people still take the stairs because it never crosses their mind to look for an elevator. Don’t use half your day’s energy on getting up the stairs each morning; instead, find the elevator so you can focus completely on your passion.

Hop in, I’ll hold the door; there’s room for one more.


Andrew J. Wilt 
SEI Analyst
Apprenticeship Program