A Not-So-Puzzling Perspective for Solving Problems
I never completed a jigsaw puzzle from start to finish before. But, while being quarantined and tied to technology day and night for work, entertainment, and socializing, I hit digital overload. I remembered a Christmas gift that one of my daughters received years ago and was able to dig out the still shrink-wrapped, 1,000-piece, Beatles puzzle. And I got hooked.
I did help work on some puzzles a few years ago and learned from my sister and brother-in-law some strategies to streamline the challenge. So, I cleared off the dining room table, grabbed some cookie sheets to hold collections of similarly colored pieces, and sorted out the edges. I started shaping the outer edge of the puzzle and putting together some easy-to-decipher clusters of shapes. And before I knew it, not just minutes, but hours flew by.
All week long, after dinner, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I would sip a cup of hot, chai tea or a cool glass of white wine and listen to instrumental jazz music in the background, getting lost in the shapes and colors. My husband wasn’t initially interested in helping but gradually, however, his curiosity led him into the room and he, too, got obsessed with searching for a specific piece he was sure he could fit in.
Interestingly, we fell into a comfortable yet unspoken system of collaboration. We would sit at opposite sides of the puzzle, allowing for different views and perspectives. Ultimately, the lone missing piece in an otherwise-completed section would suddenly reveal itself to whichever one of us had yet to work on that section. Sometimes, previously convinced a piece had to fit where it clearly didn’t, we experienced ‘ah-ha’ moments as we twisted it in different directions—realizing we had been looking at it upside down. Suddenly, we were able to easily snap it into its rightful place.
Walking away and coming back the next day, would also allow us to see the pieces in a different light. And the closer we got to finishing the puzzle, the easier it seemed to get to interpret how the bite-size, curvy, colored pieces played a part in the larger picture. Within a week, after several late nights consumed our concentration, we high-fived as we tucked in the final pieces.
The whole experience provided a great deal of insight—and much-needed distraction. The greatest benefits were that while working on the puzzle, I realized I was so focused that I wasn’t thinking of anything else. It was a wonderful opportunity to clear my brain from the news, fears and worries of the day. Plus, it helped to pass the time in a stimulating yet non-digital fashion. Beyond that personal relief, it helped me recognize the value of collaborating with others, being open to unique viewpoints and finding ways to look at situations from different perspectives. In business, all these skills are critical for creative innovation and continued growth.
The next time you’re faced with a complex challenge, remember to open your eyes to other views and lean on peers, partners and experts for different perspectives. And, recognize that sometimes, you need to flip everything upside down to make all the pieces fit.
For an interesting look at how jigsaw puzzles are made, and the current increased demand, check out this recent article from the New York Times.